Friday, 14 December 2012

Ante's Inferno by Griselda Heppel

review by Maryom

Ante's life at her new school is being made a misery by Florence, a girl she knew back at junior school and who seems to bear a grudge. One lunchtime in an attempt to escape, Ante hides out in the old, and rather dangerous, organ loft above the Hall. Florence though is on her trail, coming ever closer to Ante's hiding place but leaning on the rotten bannister. Before Ante can shout a warning, there is a crash and Florence falls through the railing. At the same time Ante falls backwards through a door and down a tunnel with a mysterious boy who suddenly appears from nowhere. Gil fell from the loft and was killed many years before but has been trapped there in a ghostly sleep. They find themselves on the banks of a river where a ferryman waits to carry passengers over to Hades. Then Florence appears too. Is she dead too? Is it Ante's fault for not warning her of the dangerous railing?
Trapped in the Underworld they must join forces and work their way through the circles of Hell, dodging dangerous creatures like Cerberus the three-headed dog and the bull-like Minotaur, to find a way out.

I must admit to having been a little doubtful that anyone could make a compelling children's story of a journey through Dante's Inferno - but Griselda Heppel has. Ante's Inferno is a clever mix of adventure story and Greek myths full of almost non-stop action. At times I found it quite frightening  - a lot of the story occurs in tunnels so my claustrophobia may have been responsible for this. There are lighter moments such as when the threesome encounter a group of Greek heros playing cricket on the Elysian Fields or the Multivice Complex, home to the Seven Deadly Sins, but overall it is a rather dark book full of terrifying beasts and monsters - though a lot of older children may find this to their taste.

The publisher suggests a readership of 9-12 but it's not a light-hearted 'cutesy' read so may not appeal to all.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Matador Publishing

Genre - children's fiction, 9+, Greek myths, adventure story

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