Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Hyddenworld - Spring by William Horwood

Title: Hyddenworld - Spring
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Macmillan
Publishing Date: 5 Feb 2010
Hardback: 325 pages
Series: First in a tetralogy


The journey beings here...

According to the myth, Bearnamund, the greatest metal-smith, the greatest CraftLord, made a flawless sphere of metal and glass, in anger, the day his beloved Imbolc died. Seeing Bearnamund's audacity, Gods shattered the object in pieces. He could only find three parts of it... three gems: one for Summer, a second for Autumn and a last one for Winter. He knew the one for Spring was close-by but he could never find it. He also created a pendant disc of gold, where he set the three gems, in the belief that Spring, the lost one, might one day come to light...

Over the centuries, the humans have lost their belief in such things but the hydden have not. That's not the only thing we have lost our belief in. “Humans are almost blind to everything but that which directly concerns them” they say in Hyddenworld. So we cannot see the hydden, or their dwellings. The hydden city of Brum is such a place. It lays just below the centre of modern Birmingham, whose human inhabitants go about their business in ignorance of the fact that one of the most historic cities in the Hyddenworld exists right under their noses...

Jack is a hydden but he's a giant-born... an outcast... In an attempt to save his life, he is sent to our world when he was six years old. And being a giant, he could live with the humans just like a regular kid. But there are legends and prophecies that suggest a giant-born is needed to find Spring, the missing gem. So his destiny, his wyrd as the hydden call it, brings him closer and closer to the Hyddenworld...

Don't Judge A Book By It But...

I like the cover of Hyddenworld - Spring. A dark forest with an eerie green light source gives a mysterious air to the book and whispers invitingly (it almost suggests an alien presence or evokes Stephen King's The Tommyknockers). I assume that the following books' covers will be based on different colours. Green representing the Spring, other colours will probably be chosen according to the other seasons.


I haven't read William Horwood's Duncton Wood novels, which I've only heard good things about. So Hyddenworld - Spring, his first fantasy in 15 years, was his first novel for me. I was expecting to be moved by this book after having read the blurb and an early review. Unfortunately this book disappointed me in various areas:

Because Hyddenworld - Spring is the first book of a tetralogy, I was not very surprised to see that the first half of the story was very slow paced. I know this may happen with long series, especially with the ones where the setting or the world building is done very meticulously. Throughout the book, there was a lot of information to digest about the characters, about their past and about the history of Hyddenworld. Jack and Katherine's reunion dragged quite a while. I appreciate that it's important to witness their developing relationship however it was plain boring for me. Furthermore, I found the general tone of the book too innocent.

The plot was flat and not very engaging. There weren't any surprising turns and twists. At no point in the story I was worried for the protagonists or even for the other characters.

I couldn't relate to the protagonists. Actually, I can probably say that the only character that I enjoyed was the young and intriguing Stort. When I closed the book to take a break, the characters didn't come with me. They stayed safely in the story and my mind was elsewhere. I didn't feel the need to talk about them. I simply failed to care about them.

But of course it wasn't all negative. In his book, Mr. Horwood has started to develop a beautiful world. He creates a colourful and magical environment. It's a pity I didn't read Hyddenworld last year when I was travelling to Birmingham every week. I would have looked at the city and its canals differently. The descriptions, characters backgrounds, side stories and the hydden mythology introduced in this first book give the impression that it is part of a much bigger picture. I'm expecting the future books to further expand the world of the hydden.

At the end, when I think about Hyddenworld - Spring, I almost feel like someone who missed the subtlety of a joke. You know? Just like when you don't get the humor but you know there's something there? I think that a lot of people will like this book very much. It's just that I'm not one of them.

Rating: 5/10


"But that's always the challenge of life itself, having to make such difficult choices." - Brief


[Possible spoiler ahead...]

There is something that I didn't quite understand. Jack is a giant-born: he is a giant in Hyddenworld. He's sent to our world so that he escapes execution because at the age of 6, his abnormality is apparent in his size. When he crosses into our world, his size doesn't change. But when he goes back to Hyddenworld when he's 17, he shrinks and becomes hydden-size. There seems to be an inconsistency here or I am missing something obvious. If he's a giant-born, he should be a giant when he goes back to Hyddenworld. If he's not a giant in Hyddenworld anymore, it would have been enough to send him to our world when he was a kid and get him back immediately in hydden size.


  1. After reading your review I'm quite sure that this si not a book for me. But I'm sure it will be interesting for people who like mythology.

  2. Here's an earlier review that gives the book 9/10:


    So have a look at this one too before making up your mind ;).