Rowena Cory Daniells

The Lost Shimmaron, book 3

ABC Books (2008)

ISBN: 9780733320286

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack (the review was first published in February 2008)

The Evil Overlord is volume three in a seven volume series of children’s novels. Each novel is written by a different, well known Australian author, and each novel tells a different story of a Shimmaron’s search for rescue. The Shimmaron are energy beings who crash landed on Earth a long time ago. The force of the crash scattered them through time and across different worlds. Disguised in different forms, they call to the children of Amethyst to help them reunite in Lake Shimmer. Only when enough of the Shimmaron have gathered there will they be able to rebuild their ship and escape Earth.

This was a lively and enthusiastic tale of Lincoln and Sam’s efforts to rescue a Shimmaron from a land controlled by an evil overlord. Lincoln and Sam have just moved to Amethyst, and have barely had time to see their new home before they are swept away to another world on their rescue mission. Sam and Lincoln regularly play “Mage Wars” role playing games and initially think this mission will be little different from those games.

From the start they face a tight deadline: if they can’t rescue the Wizard Shimmaron and return to their entry point within twenty four hours they’ll be trapped in this strange land forever. And with the Evil Overlord currently the power behind the throne – and scheming to become the power on the throne – that isn’t a very attractive prospect. The brothers are equally desperate to fulfil their mission and to get back in time, with or without the wizard.

Daniells has created a very realistic approach. Initially, when the boys are transported between lands, younger brother Sam believes immediately that he’s in another land and starts trying to implement the lessons learnt from role playing and computer games. Lincoln initially thinks they’ve just stumbled on some sort of elaborate medieval festival and acts accordingly. Both reactions ring completely true, and it’s easy to picture young people in this situation reacting in those ways.

In the same way, the relationship between the brothers also rings very true – Lincoln not meaning to be a bully, but inadvertently becoming a bit of one due to his greater size. Sam, always competing with his brother, better at some things, but always feeling a little less successful than his older brother. In many ways it is Sam who comes into his own in this novel and who has the greatest hand in rescuing the Shimmaron and bringing their adventure to a successful close. That is a common thread in this series; in each of the first three novels, it is a younger sibling who could be said to be the prime mover in rescuing the Shimmaron. There isn’t a great age difference between the siblings, so this won’t have a great impact on the audience for this novel, but it may make it a little more attractive to younger siblings who are feeling a little downtrodden.

I also liked the way the siblings interacted with Essy, a young acrobat from the Evil Overlord’s world who becomes involved in helping the brothers. In particular, Essy has considerable expertise as an acrobat and performer, and it was amusing but realistic to see her bossily trying to convey that knowledge and the boys bristling even as they recognised her greater knowledge. Their interactions also had the hallmarks of young people on the edge of adolescence; there was no hint of romance, but Lincoln in particular was showing signs of an exasperated “girls!” attitude at times.

The plot and action of this novel are fairly straightforward, not surprising as it’s a shortish novel aimed at children. However, the plot moves briskly and is credible, and there’s plenty of realistic action as well. I did feel that some of the obstacles Lincoln and Sam face were perhaps overcome a little too smoothly, but that’s unlikely to bother the target group for the novel. The obstacles are challenging for both the heroes and readers, and young readers will admire the way Lincoln and Sam solve the problems.

The novel is well-written and well-adjusted to the likely age of its readers – most children would be able to read this themselves, though particularly young readers might need some help with the vocabulary. It’s also a novel that would lend itself well to reading aloud; adults reading The Evil Overlord to or with children will also enjoy the smooth writing and lively plot.

This novel stands alone effectively; you wouldn’t need to read any others in the series to make sense of and enjoy this one. However, it’s also an effective part of the series. It fits in with the over-arching story and themes, doesn’t contradict anything put forward in earlier novels, and doesn’t hem later novels in any more than the over-arching story does already. In itself, this is a well-written children’s novel well-suited to its target group, and also likely to be enjoyed by adults reading with them. As part of the Lost Shimmaron series, it’s likely to encourage young readers to want to see more of the novels.