There is no shortage of books about young boys transported to fantastic worlds and having read a good number of them in my youth, there was something very familiar about Antiquitas Lost. That’s not to say Antiquitas Lost is derivative, but there is much that you may have read before.
Weighing in at 615 pages, Antiquitas Lost is the debut novel of an American cardiologist, Robert Louis Smith, a former neighbor and now owner of the dining room table of the more adult-themed writer, Ann Rice. To ease the storytelling, Geof Isherwood of Marvel Comics fame has provided more than 70 illustrations.
Antiquitas Lost tells the story of a boy named Elliott, an introverted kid with disfigured hands and feet struggling with moving to a new and strange place in New Orleans, with his terminally ill mother. His grandfather offers sometimes strange assistance but he seems to be the only help for the pair. With his grandfather’s nudging, Elliott learns that the old man’s 18th-century mansion hides an ancient secret. Smith’s easy and quick-paced style does a good job of taking the pretense out of what fans of the genre of book will undoubtedly have heard before.
After negotiating the relationship of his ailing mother and her father, Elliott finds a way through an ancient doorway into a tumultuous world, full of strange creatures and warring races. Pangrelor is an ancient world and described as “mother to all the stars in the sky.” As he explores these strange surroundings, instead of the disabilities he has spent his life bearing, he now enjoys wondrous new abilities he never dreamed he would possess.
As described, it’s easy to dismiss the premise as cliché but there is more to the story than just a poor boy escaping his shackles to a new world filled with promise. This lengthy book does offer more than escapism as Pangrelor is a parallel reality with ties to the world and its futility that Elliott comes from. Elliott’s determination is fueled by the promise of curing his dying mother and his success in the world of Pangrelor is the only chance he seems to have.
As lengthy as Antiquitas Lost is for a teen fantasy novel and notwithstanding a cover that poorly represents the quality of the story inside, the numerous illustrations give a welcome treat to the reader. Isherwoods’s panels while not in color, draw from his work in beloved Marvel Comics including Spider-Man, The X-Men, Conan the Barbarian, Doctor Strange, Namor, The Avengers, and his own comic book title, Lincoln-16, which garnered praise for its artwork from Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee.
Robert Louis Smith has channeled Anne Rice’s unassuming writing style and pacing while borrowing themes from an earlier period of fantasy writing. The story will not leave well-read readers with many surprises but at least for this writer, Antiquitas Lost is a nostalgic trip to another world. It borrows much from an earlier period of books, comics, and movies and comes off as an original homage to everything loved about youth with enough that is new to avoid parody.