Verdict: A very welcome re-read of one of my favourite childhood stories.
Rediscovering an old favourite is always a great way to spend time, and Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13 gave me a great escape from the hustle and bustle of my daily life. I first read it in the first year of primary school, sitting cross-legged the reading carpet, and I wanted to see if it was still as good as I remembered. I plan to move on to Dial-A-Ghost very soon (also an old favourite by the same author) because I enjoyed it so much.
Unabashedly fantastical, Platform 13 reads like a long, traditional fairy tale, in the vein of Grimm or Andersen. It tells the story of an alternate world in which there is no crime or conflict, and everyone loves the royal family. Disaster strikes when the young Prince of the realm (known as Avalon in legend, among other names, but simply as The Island to its inhabitants) is stolen during a trip Up There – that is to say, the real world. The passage between the two worlds only opens once every nine years, so when the time comes, a rescue party of Islanders is sent to retrieve their nine-year-old lost prince, who has no idea who he really is.
Unfortunately, things don’t go quite to plan…
I love this book. I really do. It’s fantasy at its boldest and brilliantly executed. I remember that, even as a child, you were dying to smack the rescuers over the head and point out the obvious, and that level of impatient interest stays throughout the book. You fall in love with these characters quickly, especially Ben, and there’s real tension that this fairytale may not end happily ever after, after all.
I’m not kidding about the tension. It has been about twenty years since I last read this book and I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember the ending. I had my heart in my mouth until the last chapter.
The only reason this isn’t a five-star rated book is due to the sentence structure which was, at times, distractingly long. This probably seems really picky, but it sometimes took me out of the story when I was mentally changing commas to full stops. This is probably my fault as an overly-critical reader – certainly I don’t remember doing this when I read it aged 7!
My syntactical zeal aside, this is an absolutely fantastic book that everyone, adult or child, should read. I’m incredibly glad I found it again.