Omnibus Books (imprint of Scholastic Australia)
Target audience: Stage 2/3 Primary
Category: Junior Fiction / Fantasy
Have you ever felt frustrated; like you just don’t fit in? That Life just doesn’t seem fair, or that you have a basic skill set that seems poorly matched to the physical world your unenviable body is forced to inhabit between daydreams? Ike did. And, as it turns out, for fairly good reasons. You see it just so happens – and Life can be a bit of a rotter like this – that Ike is actually the last descendant of a clan of venerated Gate Guardians from a place called Wychwold, in a parallel Universe, who had been tucked away on Earth for safekeeping when – as they say – the poo hit the fan some time ago back home.
Ike’s life begins to make a lot more sense, but gets considerably more complicated, when – as the result of a strange combination of events that begins with an enchanted pen stealing itself – he suddenly gets himself transported back to Wychwold. After his first act of bravery goes well and truly pear-shaped (and he ends up foiling a rescue attempt of the future Queen of Grimmery), Ike is labeled a traitor and is forced to seek council from an adult without a decent head on his shoulders who talks out of his bum (and hands up everybody who can relate to that). Long story short, Ike now has 7 days to rescue the princess, which might not have been that bad if he didn’t also have to: (a) be tied to a spiteful, vengeful imp, (b) befriend a fledgling thief, (c) steal a spirited, carnivorous horse, (d) travel halfway across Wychwold in a poo powered balloon, and (e) rob a murderous witch-queen whose idea of a good time was bathing in stolen children’s nightmares.
In The Headless Highwayman, Ian Irvine combines a fast moving, captivating story with more than a few decent laughs; ideally suited to the target audience. Ian has a flair for creating likeable characters, and the combination of personalities makes for a fun read. A number of valuable moral messages are conveyed along the way (eg. regarding teamwork, trust, friendship, tolerance and more), but with sufficient subtlety and tact that the reader never has the feeling of being preached at. It also confirms what we’ve all known for a very long time: that, no matter how far you’re prepared to bend your mind, sometimes the opposite sex just never seems to make any sense!
Don’t let me waste any more of your time though, go out and buy the book! Ian has written more books than you could count on all your fingers and toes combined, so you just know it’s gonna be good. If it turns out that The Headless Highwayman gets you hooked on humorous fantasy and leaves you begging for more, don’t despair, this one is just the first in a series of four, so there’s plenty more adventure and laughs where this one came from!
A Bug in a Book recommended review by Scott Chambers.