The Stranger's Guide To Talliston by John Tarrow #BookReview #BlogTour

Abandoned and alone, thirteen-year-old Joe’s world is shattered when he enters a deserted council house and becomes trapped within a labyrinth protecting the last magical places on earth. There, Joe discovers a book charting this immense no-man’s land, without time or place, its thirteen doors each leading to a different realm. Hunted by sinister foes, the boy is forced ever deeper into both the maze and the mystery of his missing parents. What will he find at the labyrinth's centre, and can it reunite him with the family he so desperately needs?
Crossing through diverse landscapes from Victorian Britain to fifties New Orleans, The Stranger's Guide to Talliston is inspired by the internationally famous house and gardens dubbed 'Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home' by the Sunday Times. It is a classic YA tale of adventure that introduces readers to an otherworld hiding in plain sight, cloaked in magic and steeped in imagined history. Yet beyond its fearsome huntsmen and battling magicians dwells the secret that lies within all of us – the power to live extraordinary lives.

I'm thrilled to be sharing my review of The Stranger's Guide to Talliston by John Tarrow today. Huge thanks to the author, Unbound and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for the gorgeous hardback copy of the novel.

When I was a child I loved nothing better than exploring second-hand bookstores or book stalls at summer fayres, hoping to find a magical story I hadn't read before. Holding the stunningly beautiful cover of The Stranger's Guide To Talliston reminded me of the sense of anticipation I felt when I made a particularly exciting discovery.
That feeling continued as I turned the pages of this wonderful book; Joe might have a Wolverine action figure and he flees on his bike from his pursuers who are in a sleek black car but there is something timeless about John Tarrow's YA fantasy. It encapsulates that sense of wonder and intrigue expressed in the best stories, the sense that magic is just behind a door, just out of reach for most of us, save those brave or lucky enough to find the entrance.
It is clear from the very start that Joe isn't quite an ordinary boy, despite his name. For a start, although he is only thirteen, he lives alone in an abandoned school bus in the middle of a roundabout. He spends every day following the rules his father made him memorise before his parents disappeared,
and the most important rule of all,
Joe has been diagnosed with a rare heart condition which means he has to take medicine every thirteen hours or he will die but his supplies are running dangerously low. Forced to run from unknown foes, he finds himself in the gardens of an derelict council house and is given little choice but to explore further when another teenage boy, Gunner bullies him to enter the old building.
What follows is a magical story which sees Joe needing to find the oracles in order to pass through the doors into the various rooms of the labyrinth. Each new room is in a different country but in various times and so he may move from Norway in 1986 to Ireland in 1933 or Canada in 1948 to a futuristic Japan in 2282. Along the way, he is hunted by the terrifying Grim Grotesques but makes friends too as he slowly tries to understand what Talliston is, and who he can trust. He is forced to make difficult decisions, including some which change him irrevocably and there is much danger and plenty of shocks in store for the boy as he explores the mysterious labyrinth.
 He is aided by a strange book, 'The Stranger's Guide To Talliston' which helps him negotiate some of the realms in this world without time or place but whoever wrote the guide doesn't seem to have been through every door and there are some where Joe must work things out for himself.  Fortunately he does have help along the way, perhaps most notably from various birds but he is assisted by some humans too, including several really strong and diverse female characters. I particularly liked the courageous Evangeline and the three women in Ireland who together are the sun, moon and stars. As he travels from door to door, he not only makes discoveries about the labyrinth, he also learns more about himself and just what he is really capable of achieving despite the barriers placed in his way.
The Stranger's Guide To Talliston features talismans and crystals, rhymes and curses, nature and the elements, bravery and evil. It's one of those very special books which allows readers to believe that perhaps magic really does exist and it's thanks to stories like this that it's kept alive. The conclusion is exactly how a tale like this should end, not with a final 'happy ever after, but with the suggestion that the story will continue, changing according to whoever is next to discover the magic within.
Forged in Fire. Carved in Ice.
Rooted in Rock. Wild as Wind. 
Shielded in Shadow.
The Walls of these Rooms ward us.
The Power of these Doors protect us.
The Magic of these Moons encloak us.
Wherever we are; whenever we are; Talliston is.
I absolutely loved it!

The setting for this novel is a real-life house that's been on quite an extraordinary journey itself. It began in 1990, with the UK’s most ordinary house: a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex. Over the next 25 years, more than 130 volunteers, artists and artisans transformed it into Talliston House & Gardens. Now that Talliston is internationally famous and dubbed 'Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home' (The Sunday Times), it has inspired this amazing adventure.

The Stranger's Guide To Talliston is published by Unbound and can be purchased from the following;
or from one of those magical portals into other worlds, your local independent bookstore!

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

John Tarrow is a novelist, poet, storyteller and award-winning writer. His fascination with folk and faerie tales has taken him around the world, gathering threads of story and legend to weave into his own mythologies: his extensive studies in Lakota Sioux and Druidic traditions offer readers stories resonant with magic, folklore and the wonders of the natural world. He spent twenty-five years transforming a three-bedroom, semi-detached, ex- council house in Essex into the world-famous Talliston House and Gardens.
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  1. Wow this does sound awesome! I may have to just add this to my list thanks to your review <3 x

  2. Huge thanks for the blog tour support Karen x

    1. Thank you for the opportunity to read such a magical book! X


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