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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Casket of Time (The)
by Andri Snaer Magnason
Age Range: 12+
Teenage Sigrun has become thoroughly fed up with all the apocalyptic news about the “situation” and even worse, her parents’ constant obsession with it. After listening to yet another news bulletin proffering doom, Sigrun’s family – along with everyone else – decides to hibernate in their TimeBoxs®, to wait for better times. But when Sigrun’s box malfunctions and opens too early, she discovers an abandoned city in ruins, overrun by wild forests and animals, and all the grown-ups tucked away in their TimeBoxes refusing to wake up. The only sign of life is a group of children like Sigrun, led by a mysterious researcher named Grace.
Grace begins to tell the children the story of the Curse of the princess of Pangea. Long ago in the kingdom of Pangea King Dimon became greedy for power after the loss of his beloved wife in childbirth. With the aid of some manipulating courtiers, the king’s sole obsession in life is a plan to conquer the world. In order to protect his daughter the princess Obsidiana from dark and gloomy days, Dimon placed her in a crystal casket made of spider silk woven so tightly that time itself could not penetrate, only opening it on ‘good days’. While Obsidiana’s family, friends and servants have aged she has not – in fact, for her, time has stood still! As a result of the king’s actions he had doomed his kingdom and trapped the princess.
Listening to this old tale Sigrun feels it’s starting to sound like a prophecy and she sees eerie parallels between the tale of Obsidiana and the present-day crisis. Now it is up to her and her new friends to try and break the ancient curse, save their families, and the world before it’s too late.
Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason has cleverly woven an intricate novel, adeptly translated by Björg Árnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery, it crosses over several genres successfully, combining elements of fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction and contemporary drama. Constantly full of surprises, it confronts the concept of time, with its unusual time travel, provides a clear message about the environmental calamity facing humanity as well as being an entertaining page-turning adventure.
One reviewer of the book for National Radio in Iceland used the analogy of the novel being like a large chocolate box – “confectionary for the mind” which certainly seems to sum it up perfectly. Definitely a novel to savour and food for thought in these uncertain times.
The Casket of Time won The Icelandic Literary Prize for Children and Young People’s Books and The Icelandic Bookseller’s Prize for best teenage book of the year.
Magnason is also the author of The Story of the Blue Planet (Pushkin Children’s Books) also reviewed on the OIW website.