Dr Sylver and the Library of Everything Dr Sylver and the Library of Everything
The Sylver Chronicles Book I

Paul Kercal
ISBN 9781897913710 (1897913710)
Highland Books, 2004

Category: Fiction
Subcategory: Teenage & Children's
Reviewed by: Phil Groom

I made a mistake with this book: I started reading it during my lunch break at work. "Big deal," you say, "good use of a lunch break, surely?"

Not when you're the only member of staff on duty, the shop's closed and you've got to reopen it after lunch (not to mention the various other things you were supposed to do during that hour... niece's A-levels congratulations card, nephew's birthday card...). Because this is a book which takes hold of you and won't let you go — and whilst the publisher is billing it as teen fiction, it's a great read for anyone: all of us were teenagers once. Make sure you've got a free evening - or at least someone else on standby! - when you start this book.

Dr Sylver is more than a school librarian and the school is where at least half of this book's action takes place. The other half takes place elsewhere, on another level. Question is, can you reach the next level? And if you do, will you survive the experience?

The other characters: Jamie — he's a dreamer, already approaching the next level but he doesn't know it. Sometimes dreams can be more real than you realise, but life's tough when your Dad's abandoned the family and the school's worst bully is out to get you. Mushy — he's the bully: will he get his comeuppance? Charlotte — she's profoundly deaf, trying to make it in a mainstream school. Now throw in a mix of variously vindictive and genuine teachers and parents along with some twisted religion and a five-a-side football competition and you should begin to get the picture: there's a war going on.

This is a stunning fiction debut which leaves books like G P Taylor's Wormwood in the shade. Taylor's angels are as dysfunctional as his characters — Kercal's angels rock and you're about to meet them. If you're a bookseller, stock this book; if you're a book buyer - buy it; donate a copy to your local library. But whoever you are, read it. Meanwhile, guess what my nephew's getting for an extra birthday present? Me, I can't wait for the sequel: I hope you're working on it, Paul!

Update, May 2006
Dr Sylver and the Repository of the Past — The Sylver Chronicles Book II: now available!

Phil Groom, August 2004

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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