Written by Terry Brooks, published in 1986 by Futura Publications.
The blurb was intriguing and the book lived up to its promise of escapism. A Magical Kingdom (knights, dragons, magicians… the whole nine yards) is advertised for sale in a Christmas catalogue, and a frustrated, single lawyer is tempted by the challenge. Written for adults, though it is something I would have enjoyed as an older child (middle grade or older) as well. It was a light and entertaining read, and the minor characters were diverse and humorous. I particularly liked the character of Questor Thews, whom I found to be better developed than the protagonist, Ben Holiday.
Ben Holiday was the ideal protagonist for this situation, but I found the character-development somewhat tedious. There was much description of his feelings of grief over his late wife, Annie, and guilt at new feelings emerging for a new lover. As another reviewer has noted, he seems to switch between polar feelings of absolute confidence, and absolute failure. Altogether, this made it harder to connect emotionally with the character, as I often felt the desire to skip paragraphs that described his grief over Annie. Again.
The novel was very much plot-driven, and in that sense it was a success. It had the necessary elements of suspense, clues, and an exciting climax that could have gone either way. The start of the novel is slightly tedious, but once Ben is transported to his Kingdom, the story keeps you wanting – and guessing – for more. Like a hare to a carrot you are fed tidbits of information and begin to form a clear picture of the state of the land and its history.
The book could be strengthened with deeper character development – I want to feel what Ben is feeling, not just be told – but I still recommend it as an escapist fantasy novel. Just what the doctor prescribed.