‘The Broken King’ by Philip Womack

Recently Moontrug has been skirting around the edges of magic – enjoying a subtle sprinkle of it with wonderful books like One Wish by Michelle Harrison and Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll, and then The Broken King dropped through her letterbox – the first in The Darkening Path series – a set of books steeped in magic, where people transform into swans, doorways to other worlds open up beneath supermarkets and artefacts in the British Museum hold very special powers…


When Simon’s little sister is mysteriously snatched away to a dark other world, he is sent by a golden messenger on a dizzying quest to get her back. With him is Flora, whose brother has also vanished, and a strange boy who rescues them from a violent attack. To enter the land of the Broken King, they must complete three tasks: Eat the Shadow, Steal the Sun, Break the Air. But how do they even begin? And what lies in wait for them, in the land of the Broken King?

shadow‘Eat the Shadow’

The story begins in our world, in the sitting room of an apparently normal British family. But when Simon utters a rhyme he remembers from an old book, a sinister magic starts to turn and life as he knows it quickly slips away. Before long, a strange messenger arrives and Simon is called on a journey far beyond the realms of everyday life. Moontrug loved the magic surrounding the messenger and the bird-deer: ‘Simon supposed the woman spoke. He heard her words, certainly, but they were emblazoned on his mind, like sound made out of light’ and it provided a perfect contrast to the evil lurking in the Knight of the Swan: ‘The darkness that lay in there was sometimes too hard for even him to bear.’ Womack even managed to make drinking a cappuccino creepy with the Knight of the Swan!

sun‘Steal the Sun’

There is a darkness at the heart of the book – the map the children find by decoding Ancient Greek abbreviations, the Takings Apart and Simon’s chilling visions of his sister trapped in the land of the Broken King – and so the children’s sense of humour lifts the reader up when the plot gets dark. Moontrug loved Flora’s reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (totally lost on Simon) and Simon’s line: ‘Whoever thought that the mouth to hell would be under the frozen goods aisle?’ Children who are interested by ancient Greek history will love the BENZ code the children discover when trying to read the map – as well as the Temple of Mithras – and Womack uses the Peter Pan idea of shadows as independent from the body in a really unique (and frightening) way with his shadowsnake: ‘Another head appeared from out of the shadowy gloom. It was larger, and it had eyes that glowed green and orange and blue before turning silver. It regarded them loftily, as if deciding on the best way to destroy them.’ It made Moontrug shiver to think this creature could be lurking just on the fringes of her own world. As the old woman says to Flora: ‘There are doors within doors and worlds within worlds’… The Broken King is an exciting read for 11+ years, and readers can rest easy about the cliff-hanger ending because there promises to be more in this series…

air‘Break the Air’