The (Phantasmagorical) Astrarium Compendium

Written by Mark Roland Langdale
Review by Jo Barton

Gulliver’s antiques emporium is filled with the grandfather clocks and ancient globes of the seventeenth century. It is the place where Gulliver dreams of a world beyond his home, to adventures far beyond his imagination, but the truth of the matter is, that in all of his thirty-five years, Gulliver has never left his native Devon. Well, that is, not until he finds himself swept away to sea whilst trying to rescue his pet dog, a Labrador named Beagle. As they fall backwards through time, Gulliver and Beagle embark upon a fantastical journey which takes them on a grand adventure in search of The Last Bookshop in the World.

The (Phantasmagorical) Astrarium Compendium is an imagined historical world which will appeal to those readers who enjoy historical fantasy. The make-believe element is well constructed and there is a joyful optimism to the narrative which is quite refreshing. The story is peopled with a whole array of historical characters, from the perceived wisdom of Old Father Time, to the olde worlde bravado of Francis Drake, all of whom add historical interest and a distinct sense of rollicking adventure.

The book is professionally produced to a high standard, and both the sepia tone of the cover and its artwork works well and is in keeping with the story content. The chapter headings are quirky and add a nice sense of curiosity. Initially, I was less enamoured with the overlong book title which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but having read the book I now concede that, in fact, it suits the book entirely and I couldn’t imagine it titled as anything else.

The story is obviously written by an author who loves writing and who enjoys bringing the imaginary world of historical fantasy to life.