Before Harry Potter and his friends were magically transporting themselves through platform nine-and-three-quarters of Kings Cross station, there was another platform that had its own magical secret.
Under Platform 13 at Kings Cross station is a secret door. Every nine years for nine days the door opens and provides safe passage to the most wondrous of island paradises. The last time it opened, the King and Queen’s baby was kidnapped on the streets of London and has been trapped there ever since. Now the time has come for the door to open once again and an old wizard, a fey, a hag and a one-eyed giant are the rescue party that are going to find the prince and bring him back.
But the prince has become a horribly spoilt, utterly dislikable little rich boy who doesn’t believe in magic and has no intention of leaving his pampered life for some strange island. Faced with an impossible challenge, will the rescuers be able to convince the prince to come with them before the door slams shut…
Magic, unusual creatures and an island that can only be reached through a secret door, The Secret of Platform 13 is a delightfully quirky fantasy read. Endearing and imaginative, it is a really enjoyable world to get lost in, one that values being kind above having lots of possessions and where the most adorable of creatures lives - everyone needs a mistmaker in their lives.
Eva Ibbotson delivers a great plot with plenty of light-hearted and funny moments as the eclectic group of magical beings traipse around the streets of London trying to find the lost boy, including delivering a sprightly and entertaining magic show on the banks of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. After this fails to convince the prince to come with them they devise a rather ill-fated plan and that’s when we meet one of my favourite characters, Soft Parts Doreen - a knitting-needle wielding assassin. This kind of inventive storytelling always makes for a satisfying read.
It is easy to make parallels with the Harry Potter books, I won’t list them all but many readers will smile knowingly. It is however worth noting that this was published three years prior to JK Rowling's famous boy-wizard.
Recommended for 9+.