The Toy Sorcerer

Rated 4.33/5 based on 17 reviews
Trapped as a mortal in a dimension where human dreams become reality, Alice Towers endures a journey of unmerciful persecution and excruciating self-discovery. Guided by an extraordinary realm creature named Shammerwack, she must find Magog; a boy imprisoned for over three centuries who holds the key to her release. More

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About Laura Hart

Born in Birmingham UK in 1962, I almost immediately developed into a hyperactive demon. My mother taught me to read when I was about four; I assume to try and distract me from drawing on the walls. She placed a bookcase outside my bedroom door and I was instructed to read when I awoke before dawn. By the time I was eight I’d enjoyed all the children’s classics from Janet and John to Robinson Crusoe. My mother had made the connection between food colouring and hyperactivity by then, but my voracious appetite for books would never be subdued. By twelve I’d graduated to Lewis, Tolkein and Orwell, amongst many others and my imagination swelled under master tutelage.
But my absolute beloved was Mr.Carrol’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, chiefly because my mind was almost as hyperactive as I slept and my dreams were a consistent source of wonderment.
My favourite lessons at school were English and Art, but I appeared to be relatively academic - I understood science - so my love of animals tipped me toward a career as a vet; it never actually occurred to me that I could write books or paint. Neither were proper jobs anyway.

My brother died when I was fourteen, he eighteen.
Everything changed.

My veterinary aspirations vanished. I pursued Neil’s dream to become an actor. I won a scholarship to drama school and studied at the Birmingham Old Rep, then moved to London, did the audition rounds and worked with some great people in TV, Film and West End Theatre.
But I soon discovered that an actress at nearly six feet tall is no role winner when most male actors stand barely over five, so I abandoned any ideas of super-stardom and moved laterally into corporate and commercial video production. I won some blue chip clients and got the bug for writing.
I first drafted The Toy Sorcerer back in 1996, but my career path once again took a sideways move and the book was shelved.
I spent ten years restoring and eco-updating a number of Heritage buildings. The last one very nearly killed me, so I went to college to study CAD and 3D modelling/animation in order to professionally draft construction schematics. This opened up a new avenue of 3D art and design and I’ve worked on some fabulous assignments in a variety of fields. See www.isodesign.uk.com
Most recently I have begun designing and making art and architectural glass.
Maybe art and authorship are proper jobs after all.
Incidentally; I was married and divorced twice, but they really were only minor incidents. I chose not to have any children.

We are seven billion and growing . . .

Also by This Author

Reviews

Review by: Bieke Paesen on Jan. 10, 2013 :
Well, this was different. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. The Toy Sorcerer is an original story that has a Alice in Wonderland-vibe to it. Too bad I was never a fan of that story, but I kind of liked this version of it. The story is well-crafted and it's written pretty good too, but I had a hard time getting through it. I had to force myself to continue reading the book. Once I was reading I got through it pretty quick but I don't like it when I have to force myself to read it. I read it because I had to finish it. I postponed reading it a lot and that's never good.

What I liked:
The plot is pretty original. I loved the characters. Especially Shammy. He's so fun! I also liked the world the writer has created in this book. The Dream Realms are exciting and scary at the same time.

What I didn't like:
Well... the fact that I didn't want to read it further and had to force myself doing so, can be because this just isn't my cup of tea. That doesn't mean this story is bad, because it isn't. It's pretty good, but not everybody likes the same things. Something that really annoyed me throughout the book are the occasional spelling and grammar errors I found. And the fact that a girl from Belgium, who's native language isn't English but Dutch, can find these errors, isn't a good sign. So, yeah. That annoyed me. xD

My conclusion:
Although it's not one of my favorites, once I was reading I enjoyed reading it. I wasn't hooked to the story, so yeah. I will be reading the sequel, maybe the things I didn't like in this part, will be better in the next. And I want to know what happens next. (Stupid cliffhangers...) I have to read 3 other books first, but I will get to it soon enough.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Katy Sozaeva on Aug. 07, 2012 :
Book Info: Genre: Fantasy/Wiccan-based Reading Level: This one is difficult to define, and if younger readers are interested, they should know they will need a dictionary nearby and that there is some profanity and obscenity and quite a lot of violence. I would say readers as young as 12 might enjoy it if these things are understood, yet adults will also find a lot to enjoy.

Disclosure: I received a free ebook copy (via Smashwords) through the LibraryThing Members Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Trapped as a mortal in a dimension where human dreams become reality, Alice Towers endures a journey of unmerciful persecution and excruciating self-discovery. Guided by an extraordinary realm creature named Shammerwack, she must find Magog; a boy imprisoned for over three centuries who holds the key to her release.

Unaware that her incarceration heralds the dawn of the Final Prophecy; Armageddon, Alice is pursued by an ancient being that plagues humanity with relentless nightmares, until the world hovers on the brink of insanity and self-annihilation.

Alice’s only earthbound ally, Leona, is also an antediluvian soul who has lived and reincarnated as a human for thousands of years. As one of the Ancient Coven and practitioner of the old knowledge, Leona summons shadows to protect Alice’s slumbering body and Magog’s timeworn effigy. But Leona’s maleficent sister, Lillian, another of the ancients, is equally as determined to capture Alice; the vessel by which the Demon Lord of the Realms intends to escape the confines of his nebulous world.

A bloody battle ensues on Earth as Lillian’s underworld demons and Leona’s defensive forces tear lives apart, whilst an increasingly insane world creeps inexorably closer to the Final Prophecy.

My Thoughts: This is book one in The Ancient Knowledge trilogy, and is written as a tribute to Alice in Wonderland. The second book is to be called The Final Prophecy; I can’t find anything for sure, but it sounds like it might be coming out this fall or winter. I should mention here that I have never read Alice in Wonderland, although the memes are well known, so I cannot really comment on parallels between the stories. However, it does not follow the same storyline and it is not as nonsensical/silly as the book to which it pays tribute, so do not go into this book expecting an homage – it is merely a tribute.

I should point out that this book uses a lot of words for which the average person will require a dictionary. I have a large vocabulary, built up over almost four decades of obsessive reading, but even I had to look up a number of the words. I know there are likely people for whom this will be a problem, but I would actively encourage readers to just keep a dictionary (preferably unabridged) handy – expanding your vocabulary is important, and reading is one of the finest ways to do so.

I was most impressed with the positive treatment of Wicca, in a very realistic sense. I don’t mean that most Wiccans can actually do the sorts of magic that Leona does, but I mean realistic in the sense that is correctly expands upon the beliefs in the circle of life and balance that is the standard structure of the Wiccan ideology. The book also makes clear that power and magic are neither good nor evil – they simply are. The only law in Wiccan is given: Do as thou wilt an it harm none.

I was surprised at one point by the mention of a Funnel web spider being aggressive, and linked to a Black Widow; the reason being that Funnel Weavers (which I assume are the same thing) are ubiquitous here. We have a large number living here in the duplex, and I have never thought them to be particularly aggressive – large, yes, they can become quite large! I saw one that I thought was a tarantula at first glance. But they don’t seem any more aggressive than any other house spider, and I’ve never – to my knowledge – been bitten by one. They’re quite beneficial, actually, which is why I encourage them in the house.

Many reviewers have stated that this is an epic fantasy, and I agree with that. My Nook version is over 400 pages, and the story is intricate but easily followed. While I enjoyed the story, it did not absorb me like a story I truly love does, so I have rated it at 4 stars. The editing is good – there are some errors, but they are not rife, and with the high-level vocabulary used, it could not have been easy to edit. I know that many fans of fantasy will enjoy this book.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: tawna lambert on May 08, 2012 :
The star rating is solely based on my personal enjoyment of this novel. It has nothing to do with the writing style or the very good story that was weaved. I did not read this whole book cover to cover, after reading it straight for about 25% I started skipping around and I also read the last few chapters, so cumulatively I read about 50% of the book.

The Story
Two realms, Earth and the Dream Realm. A witch and a young girl from the Earth realm and many characters in the Dream Realm. This young girl has had a very sad thing happen to her and this sort of creates her way into becoming the person needed to save the world. There are prophesies about an evil entity that will be released to the Earth and apocalyptic doom from there, but an ancient coven and a trapped sorcerer and the young girl are the ones who will be the center of saving or not saving Earth realm.

Likes
-The writing was great. Metaphors and riddles and rhymes, oh my. Also, the depths that the author went into describing and creating this other world was amazing.
-I liked how the author gave little hints as to what Wicca really is and showed that there are misconceptions. (I am a believer, though not a practitioner)
-I also liked that the story showed the paths of "enlightenment" basically. Going through the things that made Alice and Magog realize the things that they did that were not necessarily good and having them realize them.

Dislikes
-I didn't really like that around every corner it kept reminding us of how horrible the human race is (or at least that's how I took it). Some of us have redeeming qualities but we should all be ashamed at how horrible the human race really is. Which seemed to me to compete with the "everyone has the potential to be good or bad" thought that was also brought up.
-I actually, personally, didn't enjoy all of the details....it seemed too too much at times and some scenes didn't seem like they were going to be necessary at all (though I ended up skipping around so I don't know if this is true)
-The story seemed to drag out and then end abruptly with a cliffhanger.
- It had so many different "real" thoughts and points of view in it that I ended up not enjoying it or wanting to enjoy it. Like it was an opinionated report that was made into a fantasy novel.
-During the "enlightenment" path, some parts were just super crazy sad (i.e. the part with Magog meeting the old man/kid).....this is a dislike because I don't want to read a fantasy book and be sad about something like that. That part was all kinds of fudged up and I didn't like reading it, wish that woulda been a part that I had skipped. Every time I think about the story with Magog and the old man/kid I get sad and then mad that I read something like that.

Conclusion
I will not go back and finish reading the gaps that I skipped in this story any time soon. This is all personal for me though. I would suggest reading other reviews as well and seeing if this book is something that you may be interested in because the writing really is good and the story well thought out. A fantasy book for sure, just not my particular cup of tea.

**free copy provided for review
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: William Bentrim on May 05, 2012 :
The Toy Sorcerer by Laura Hart

I got a distinct feel of Alice in Wonderland when reading this. I was relieved to see in the forward (which I usually read afterward don’t ask me why since I have no idea) that another reviewer saw it as an Alice in Wonderland tribute.

Alice is physically challenged due to an accident. She and her Dad move to a quaint country cottage to escape their past. She meets and is befriended by the delightful elderly lady and her Jack Russell terrier who live down the land.

Little does she know that all is not what it seems? Alice is enmeshed in an ancient conflict of good versus evil, sister versus sister and reality versus fantasy. Alice’s unlikely role as a champion provides the thrust of the story. Overcoming obstacles regardless of their severity seems to be the moral.

There is a wealth of colorful characters in the book. Surrounded by immortals of questionable character, she is befriended by unlikely allies. Shammerwack seems to illustrate the bi-polarity of life. The book is entertaining and a touch confusing with reality and dreams conflicting.

Try it, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the looking glass.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Holly on May 02, 2012 :
This book intrigued me for most of the time. I started to really like Alice because of the way that her brother and mother have died, and being crippled, she still doesn't really argue and she doesn't give up. This has also occurred when she was in the Dream Realms. Oh, and SHAMMERWACK!! Now who doesn't love him? I might not listen to him a whole lot, but he was so loving and caring towards Alice. The whole time Alice was in the realms, it was just more and more adventure for her. I truly loved the different and crazy things going on in the Dream Realms. The totally different characters really amazed me. All in all, this book left me wanting to know more. Hart did a great job with the fantastic writing. I could easily see the Dream Realms in my head! I just loved this book and oh- [THE DARK DAYS!!! (hide spoiler)] SOO SUSPENSEFUL!!!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Holly on May 02, 2012 : (no rating)
This book intrigued me for most of the time. I started to really like Alice because of the way that her brother and mother have died, and being crippled, she still doesn't really argue and she doesn't give up. This has also occurred when she was in the Dream Realms. Oh, and SHAMMERWACK!! Now who doesn't love him? I might not listen to him a whole lot, but he was so loving and caring towards Alice. The whole time Alice was in the realms, it was just more and more adventure for her. I truly loved the different and crazy things going on in the Dream Realms. The totally different characters really amazed me. All in all, this book left me wanting to know more. Hart did a great job with the fantastic writing. I could easily see the Dream Realms in my head! I just loved this book and oh- THE DARK DAYS!!! SOO SUSPENSEFUL!!!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Alyssia Ashkevron on May 02, 2012 :
The first and best word I can think of to describe this book: epic.

When authors attempt to self-identify as writers of "epic fantasy" I generally scoff - but this book succeeded. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

This read like a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and the Chronicles of Narnia, with some heavy archetypes, some wonderfully bizarre and original characters and a moving plot that, you know, mattered.

It was refreshing to read a book where the "love" was understated and tentative, but still obviously sincere. Also, where love did not equal triangle. It was nice to see that the epic-level of the plot was not made to bow to some cheesy, too-quickly fashioned obsession. It was cute without being THE THING THE BOOK WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR. Because we've had enough of that lately. This was a refreshing change.

The first 2/3 of the book went quite quickly. I could see from the numbers on my kindle that the book was "long" but it didn't "feel" long. The story was engaging, the characters interesting, the writing beautiful - and I am always into a good traditional pagan story with witchcraft that hasn't become all stupidly twisted by modern paranormal obsession.

Shammy. Loved Shammy. Just. Loved. Shammy.

And Merlin. Wasn't sure, but then it grew on me. It's always tough to bring in so many archetypal ideas - the representations of Goddesses, Magic, Dreams. These are hard things to mess with and still be successful. But Hart manages, with gusto.

The dreams. The dream realms were interesting, but the dream segments that occur later (when the Ancients are testing Magog and Alice and challenging them to confront their deepest selves) were just beautiful. I was really impressed with the way they remained relevant, thought-provoking and engaging. I loved that there wasn't a single answer curled into each scenario, but rather a multitude of threads that helped spell out Truth.

I was a big fan of this portion of the book. I felt very moved, and I was impressed with the way the trials were laid out and the ability of the author to juggle a multitude of plot threads and characters and bring them all together in an (almost) seamless ending. The fact that I knew, at any point in the book, where every character was and what he/she was up to was *damned impressive*. There was clearly a lot of care taken with crafting the story.

The slow reveal! I am always impressed when authors write stories that unfold. I get very tired of reading like I'm eating a feast - a table of plot and detail laid out before me on shiny silver plates - VOILA! no mystery here! So far from that was this book. Hart managed to write a story that would have resisted such methods anyway, mostly due to complexity, but in addition (YAY!) she took pains to shape and tease the story. And it shows. The craftsmanship is impressive.

THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME.

Fun, original, and with all the staples of a true EPIC.

Definitely worth the purchase price.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Patrick Hefford on April 30, 2012 :
Lessons for life wrapped in fantasy.

As an engineer by profession and by nature a fairly down to earth realist, if not entirely a skeptic or cynic, fantasy hitherto has not been my genre of choice. Imagination, most would tell you, is not my strongest point either. However, I stumbled on rave reviews of Laura’s book and was drawn to read it. Having done so it has opened my eyes as to see how fantasy can be so cleverly used, by the right author, to portray some of life’s bitter lessons that we all experience at some time or other.

I am full of admiration of her gifted technique in creating and describing so many strange creatures that one can begin to see quite clearly, and then complete the picture by developing the characters to the point where they become lovable or fearful. (By golly this book would make a great film with all the computer generated images these afford.)

To begin with, at times, I found it hard to keep pace with all the characters and creatures as they came on the scene and occasionally, I confess, I had to back-track. However I soon found myself totally absorbed and gripped by the adventures and terrifying ordeals of Alice’s quest through the ever changing Dream Realms.

From radio interviews and newspaper articles I understand that Laura wrote this book some fifteen years ago, shelved it then resurrected it recently. No doubt “The Toy Sorcerer” now has been honed to reflect, between the lines, fifteen more years of her life’s ups and downs.

It is clearly not a young child’s fairytale as some horrific events are very explicitly described with a modicum of expletives here and there. The richness of vocabulary is suited to late teens and above. A truly excellent book and a triumph as a debut. I commend you to read it.

Hurry up Laura with book two “The Final Prophecy"
Patrick Hefford

Retired Civil Engineer
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Shelly123 on April 27, 2012 :
Beautifully written fantasy.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Doreen Gordon on April 22, 2012 :
My granddaughter has read this book and recommended it to me, she knows I am a fan of good 'Fantasy' fiction and the rich vocabulary of our English language,which is in decline through lack of use!
I must say that already, only having read the first few chapters she was right. It is exciting and vivid in plot,prose and characters - Hooray.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Nigel Collins on March 04, 2012 :
Thoroughly recommend this book, superb read. The characters, fully formed and believable. The plot worthy of Tolkien. The ending leaves the reader reaching for the second volume. For sure an author to follow.

NRC
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Nigel Collins on March 04, 2012 :
Thoroughly recommend this book, superb read. The characters, fully formed and believable. The plot worthy of Tolkien. The ending leaves the reader reaching for the second volume. For sure an author to follow.

NRC
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: JR Barker on Feb. 20, 2012 :
This book contains spells, potions, incantations, gods, goddesses, elementals, talking animals, flying horses, witches and, of course, witchcraft; the religious sort of witchcraft with gods and elementals, not the fantasy sort of witchcraft with wands and brooms.
There are so many aspects to the book that it’s a wonder that the author managed to stitch it all together. But she did, and she did it well.

As a result it took me a while to write an adequate review of this book.

The main thing that struck me about The Toy Sorcerer was how beautifully written it is. It’s what attracted me to it in the first place. The use of language and imagery really sucks you into the story, at times it’s as if she is painting with words.
Laura also has a knack of making you really feel for and care about the characters, which makes you really root for them.

There are many characters woven into this tale, some of them are from Myth, some are from the Wiccan religion and some are masterful creations of the authors very own.

The author is very adept at inventing worlds for these characters as well as describing the world around her.
The real world is painted so vividly as ordinary that is seems a very strange to have something as extraordinary as a fully fledged witch and her familiar running around, fighting demons and casting spells.

On the flip side the dream realms allow you to encounter strange lands and even stranger locals that at times seem more real than the real world.

This is a steadily paced, well thought out book that I would recommend to anyone. Although there are a few minor expletives so perhaps not for very young children, unless parents are prepared to edit.

The only fault in this book that occasionally jarred me from the story are the interactions between the characters. At times mannerisms and turns of phrase tend to swap characters. Some of the conversations between characters felt also felt a little too ‘nice’ or contrived at times.
But I have to say that this is me nit picking. I found this book to be extremely well written, gritty and imaginative with well thought out twists and turns, complete with characters that suck you into the story and make you root for them.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Lee Sibbald on Feb. 05, 2012 :
The story is much more than a fantasy plotline, however; the character of Alice is delineated in a realistic and empathetic way that pulls the reader through the story with her, and when Alice’s journey forces her to face some difficult facts and memories, the reader shares her pain. Alice is a character with psychological depth. The story itself is engaging and fast-paced, with spots of humour, well-defined characters and dialogue that sounds very natural. What I enjoyed most was the wonderfully evocative descriptive writing. In this regard, I think the author demonstrated a gift for storytelling that really puts the reader into the heart of the story with the main characters. I think this is a very good read for young adults and adults alike.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Celina Cuadro on Jan. 05, 2012 :
Tug-at-Your-Heartstrings Charming
Review by Celina Cuadro, www.bookideas.com

I was quite impressed by Laura Hart's debut novel "The Toy Sorcerer" - I fell in love with the first characters
introduced to me, and became even more committed to them the further I read. Ms. Hart tugged at my heartstrings by
helping me connect with her characters on a very intimate level, that of tragedy and pain. This could be the first
time I've ever been enchanted by characters rendered more lovable by the painful and bittersweet trials they
endured.

Alice Towers and her father are struggling to pick up the pieces of their life after the tragic death of her
mother and her brother Tommy. Leaving the only home Alice knew in order to get away from their memories, the
Towers move from London to the North Devon countryside where they hoped to begin anew. There they meet Leona
Heggarty, known by the townsfolk as the local midwife, but also a witch from the Coven of Immortal Souls, who asks
Alice's help in rescuing her apprentice Magog from a dimension known as the Dream Realms. Something goes quite
wrong with Leona's plans and instead of helping Magog get out of the Dream Realms, Alice gets imprisoned like him.
Initially unaware of her dire straits she travels the land looking for Magog - but an even greater war is brewing
with Alice as the linchpin and the continuation of the human race at stake. To free herself and Magog from the
Dream Realms, Alice faces greater trials and difficult truths of self-discovery that will take its toll on her
already broken heart.

Let me state from the beginning that I will be repeating myself when it comes to the words, 'enchanting,'
'charming,' and 'endearing' when I speak of this tale. What is quite refreshing was that Laura Hart's rendering of
her character's tragedies gave me a feeling of intimate familiarity that made them more believable. For example,
the sadness and despair Alice felt may be a mirror to the author's own loss, or it may just be that Ms. Hart's
experience in the performing arts gave her great skill in making readers empathize with the character's woes.
Either way, I resonated with the authenticity of the pain, making the young protagonist Alice more real and
endearing. This is not in any way a depressing story - there are quests and dangers and battles to face, and a
message of respect for one's fellow creatures - but because the author does not shield the readers from the losses
and tragedies, one doesn't get an antiseptic Disney adventure, but a story with characters readers can root for.
The little bits of sorrow in each of Ms. Hart's characters made me commit more to them, made the tale sweeter, and
left me eagerly awaiting the next volume in the series, "The Final Prophecy".

A large contributor to the charm of the tale was the language. The author has achieved an ambiance of 'coziness'
in her character's conversations and in her treatment of crucial points - other than being in the genre of
contemporary fantasy, the tale feels like a story your aunt is telling about the family two blocks down the road.
It takes skill to make demons, gryphons, and dragons cozy and familiar, yet Ms. Hart made it very easy for me. The
conversations don't feel stilted, and the voyage of self-discovery undergone by Alice and Magog was gut-wrenching because I could easily see myself or a dear friend discovering similar things not easily faced.

Let me repeat myself a final time: this is a charming tale for readers of all ages, even if it is initially for
the young adult demographic. A very impressive debut for Laura Hart, and I encourage everyone to pick up "The Toy
Sorcerer" - may it captivate you and leave you anticipating the next in the series as it did for me.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Anthony Prouse on Dec. 20, 2011 :
A great book. had to read it in one hit.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Anthony Prouse on Dec. 20, 2011 : (no rating)
Great story, very original concept and a feast for lovers of the English language.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

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