A fantasy novel about words and friendship that Neil Gaiman finds glorious? How could this go wrong?
I was so excited to read this book, about what might happen when the letter D slowly starts disappearing from the world and only one young girl, Dhikilo Saxardiid Samawada Bentley, seems to notice. I know some people find it cutesy, but I happen to love stories with a warm, friendly narrator who enjoys wordplay and speaks directly to the reader. It’s why The Hobbit is my favourite Tolkien novel and Pushing Daisies is one of my favourite shows. Other books this style calls to mind are The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and the first couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. D: A Tale of Two Worlds is written in this manner and I was hooked on page one. Hooked, and totally confused by the 3 star average on Goodreads.
The first part, which takes place in our world, is great. The second part, which takes place in the parallel (or alternate? neighbouring? it’s not really clear) world of Liminus, which is where the Ds have gone, went on far too long and felt very repetitive, basically consisting of Dhikilo and her protector, Nelly, going from place to place meeting new inhabitants of Liminus. The the ending is rushed with a very half-hearted allusion to TFG in the form of a dictatorial buffoon who is behind the missing Ds and a very unsatisfying suggestion as to what Dhikilo might tell her parents about where she’s been.
Dhikilo is a great protagonist, and the sort that there should be many more of – an orphan from Somaliland adopted into an upper-middle-class London family, a curious, resourceful, intelligent girl whose race and upbringing has absolutely no impact on her being able to go on An Adventure that explicitly includes homages to Dickens, Narnia, The Wizard of Oz and other worlds. It also made me think of The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but unfortunately is not as good as any of them (except maybe the Wizard of Oz, which I also didn’t enjoy and find hugely overrated – but then I only read the first one).
Verdict: 5 stars for part 1, 2 stars for part 2, 3 stars overall, recommended for small children only because adults who have read widely aren’t going to find a lot here.