My thanks to the author for a review copy of the book via Booktasters.

Jirvania is the second in a fantasy children’s series the Julu series, and a story which is set around the idea of protecting stories and more importantly our imaginations, for where would the world be without them?

An ordinary 11-year-old boy (of course, since that’s when all adventures begin!), Jack Lemione discovers an opal dragon’s egg in a cave which is his secret hideout near his home in Mystic, Connecticut. Soon after, his mother is attacked by a monstrous creature and she faces it while urging him to run to safety. In the cave he finds his friend Mia (who he later learns is his cousin) and in her lap the newly hatched baby dragon Julu. He then discovers that he is actually a prince from a magical land called Jirvania where stories, songs and poems grow and come to our world. Here lies the Great Library where all the stories ever told are preserved and doors lead one into each to experience them. But Jirvania and with it all stories and imagination are under threat from a monster named Kor and his cronies, and it is prophesized that Jack, who is to be a future guardian of the library, must save it. But how?

In this instalment of the story, Jack with his cousin Mia and friends old and new, including the guardian of the Great Library, Karel and the opal dragon Julu must take on different tasks (to which Julu and others guide them), to defeat the evil Kor, release innocents whom he has imprisoned and ultimately save Jirvania. These journeys take them across time and place, and in and out of stories, some that help them on and others that they become part of or which are a part of their own. The tasks they must perform may be as challenging as battling monsters but also as simple as resolving misunderstandings or simply, extending a hand of friendship. And every action, no matter how simple or complex changes the story!

For a series which is all about the relevance of stories and imagination, this is in itself a very imaginative and creative book indeed. The world that it creates, Jirvania is one that is magical no doubt, but also one that is centred on stories themselves, its Great Library providing a door into every story told, and a land a where stories and songs are ever being created and told. In this magical world, all the storybook characters abound—if you’re ill, Doctor Dolittle might be called in to treat you (he was a human doctor first), if you need to go out on the water, the Owl and the Pussy Cat might give you a ride on their boat—you can visit Emily of New Moon or meet Titania the Faery queen (if she chooses to grace you with her presence)! And these are not all, for in Anderegg’s world, it isn’t just characters from books that we run into but also ones from mythology and real-life ones from history!

Jirvania is also, as the author herself describes it, a utopian space where love, and kindness and harmony are the norm; even mortal enemies from the real world seem to manage to communicate and set aside their differences. But despite all this, it isn’t free from trouble for misunderstandings may occur causing the loveliest of stories to no longer be so, and it isn’t safe from evil with creatures like Kor and the demon witch Lamashtu bent on destroying it—and to save this world from their clutches, it is not only courage but kindness and a good heart that play a significant part. The importance of these values in our lives as the book’s message comes through well as we see that even a small act of kindness can change entire lives. The book, without dwelling on it too much, also puts across the need to live in harmony with nature, to protect the marine world, and save our ecosystems.

Like her world, Anderegg has created a wonderful set of characters, all of whom are likeable—the rather amazing Ruth was a favourite whom I enjoyed watching in action, so to speak and I of course loved the various animal characters, whether the beautiful Julu herself or the wolf Ban or even Candy (I won’t say who she is)! There are moments when these animal characters fall into danger and we fear for them, but by and large they do come through ok (with one cliffhanger which I think will turn out ok too). There are also some sweet brownies (inspired a touch by some Rowling characters). I rather liked that the ‘good’ characters are done in a way that none of them seem at any time saccharine, some in fact having issues to deal with or get over (Karel for instance, or Jack himself).    

The story or stories (the central one of Jack and his friends saving Jirvania, and the others they hear or become part of along the way) that the book tells I found to be interesting right from the start. However, it did take me a while to really get engrossed in the book because there were quite a large number of characters each with a story to tell, and I did find it took time to get my head around them as well as around how each of them connected up. I will say here that I haven’t read the first in the series, and while the author has included a helpful introduction for those like me, as well as a cast of characters at the end, because there were so many, this did still create some confusion. Once I had the central thread and a few connected ones straight in my mind, things did get much better and I was drawn in more.  

All-in-all Jirvania turned out to be an imaginative and magical tale, with likeable characters, which I enjoyed reading very much (though there is a little confusion for a while with the various characters). And I do want to read on and see where the next part of their adventure leads them!

Edition reviewed: ebook; Gatekeper Press, 2021; pp. 504.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Jirvania by Jan Anderegg

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