When absent-minded Professor Random misplaces the main character from Alice in Wonderland, young Henry Witherspoon must book-jump to fetch Alice before chaos theory kicks in and the world vanishes. Along the way he meets Winnie Flapjack, a wit-cracking doodle witch with nothing to her name but a magic feather and a plan. Such as it is. Henry and Winnie brave the Dark Queen, whatwolves, pirates, Struths, and fluttersmoths, Priscilla and Charybdis, obnoxiously cheerful vampires, Baron Samedi, a nine-dimensional cat, and one perpetually inebriated Muse to rescue Alice and save the world by tea time
I have said so in the past and I will reiterate again: I love quirky books. Books that throw you for a loop, books that send you scrambling for your sanity, books that tickle and make you smile with appreciation. And Random Magic is one such book. I can understand why people may not be able to appreciate it because I think it takes a certain kind of taste to appreciate the wit and humour so prevalent in Random Magic. If I were to compare it to any book, I would say it is most certainly similar to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It has the same method of taking what would be considered bizarre and presenting it as perfectly reasonable and rational.
The story is about Henry who has to find Alice (from Wonderland) who has gone missing – or rather, has been misplaced by Professor Random (who really is as bad as his name sounds). He is dropped (literally) inside a book at which point he meets my favourite character, Winnie Flapjack, a Doodle Witch about to be burned at the stake for being…well, a witch. She is saved by Henry and decides to help him find Alice. And off they go on their adventures.
What is marvelous about Random Magic is, indeed, it’s randomness. It is a conflation of several genres, a pastiche if you will, of very different things. You have Greek myths alongside vampires alongside fairy tales. The reader has no idea what the next chapter brings and this unpredictability (that is so lacking in other books right now) keeps the reader on her toes and reading on. Of course the narrative direction might be disconcerting to some readers but as I said before with Going Bovine, this book requires a certain willingness to play with ideas and theories that are thought of as acceptable. Winnie is an eccentric character who functions by a logic that is most clear to her whether Henry can fathom it or not. She is remarkably complex and reading her is a pleasure. Henry, on the other hand, is not really as complex but he is a much needed foil to Winnie.
The plot, as I have said, is random but a conclusion is reached and it is satisfying. The writing is strong and the humour crisp and inviting. It is clever and I think, if you like books such as The Hitchhiker’s Guide, you will most certainly love The Random Magic.