The Aldous Lexicon (Withern Rise Trilogy) by Michael Lawrence | Book Reviews

The Aldous Lexicon trilogy book covers

I first read A Crack in the Line, the first in the Aldous Lexicon series, when I was perhaps ten or eleven years old, and I completely adored it. I recall being totally swept up in the book and unable to put it down, but despite the impression the book left on me I never got around to reading the sequels. Now, nearly two decades later, I’ve finally done it!

A Crack in the Line

In A Crack in the Line, fifteen-year-old Alaric is killing time on a snowy weekend. His mother is dead and his father is set to move his new girlfriend into their home. Suddenly, he finds himself transported to an alternative reality in which his mother is still alive. There, he meets the alternative version of him – a girl called Naia – and sees what his life might have been like if his mother hadn’t died. Alaric and Naia travel back and forth between these realties and get to grips with each other’s lives, but Alaric can’t quite quash the resentment he feels that Naia’s version of their mother lived, while his didn’t.

I loved the mystery and intrigue of the first book, and the dynamic between Naia and Alaric. Technically they’re the same person, and there are striking similarities between them, but Alaric’s loss of his mother has resulted in a cynical, surly and pessimistic personality, while Naia remains positive and peppy. There’s almost something of a sibling rivalry going on between them as they strive to understand the nature of the split realities and the likenesses and differences between them. A Crack in the Line ends on a serious cliffhanger – I won’t say what it is as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who fancies reading the trilogy – which leads us straight into book two, Small Eternities.

Small Eternities

Here, things get a little more complex as a third reality – one set in the past – is thrown into the mix. Alaric and Naia both find themselves transported to an earlier version of their home in which they meet a boy named Aldous who is destined to die at a tragically young age. Meanwhile, an old man named Aldous is wandering between Alaric and Naia’s realities, suggesting that somewhere along the line the young boy managed to survive.

Small Eternities jumps between multiple realities and timelines and I have to admit I found it a little tricky to follow at times. I suppose this added to the confusion and intrigue that Alaric and Naia felt as they tried to unearth the facts of each reality, but it made for a frustratingly disjointed reading process at times. Despite this, it all comes together at the end as we see multiple versions of the same event and the ripples this causes in each reality. There’s a big, tragic plot twist that I absolutely didn’t see coming and which had me keen to get stuck into book three.

The Underwood See

The final book in the trilogy is The Underwood See, and if I thought things were complicated in book two, it was nothing compared to this one. There are multiple Alarics, a present-day Naia and a future Naia who is pregnant, a bloke called Aldous U who isn’t the same Aldous as in the previous books, and yet another alternative reality which is set to end at any moment. Oh, and then there’s the gang of kids who are trapped in a weird woodland, one of which is totally insane and looks set to kill everybody. Phew.

To a certain extent I felt that The Underwood See lost its way a little. There was a lot going on with too little explained for much of the book. Everything comes together and is explained in the end by the mysterious Aldous U – it turns out he’s a seasoned reality-hopper who has been keeping tabs on Alaric and Naia – but for a long time before that I found myself frustrated by the way the plot flitted here and there without dropping anywhere near enough hints as to what the hell was going on. I read through books one and two in next to no time since they held my attention well, but book three felt like something of a slog in the middle portion. It was like treading water until the whole mystery was finally, properly unveiled. But when it was, it all clicked into place and the saga had a brilliant conclusion that left me satisfied.

All in all, I loved the concept of The Aldous Lexicon and I’d definitely recommend the trilogy. It’s a captivating premise and Michael Lawrence has a fluid, vibrant style of writing – there’s vivid imagery, believable characters, and nuanced dialogue. Good stuff.

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