In modern day England, 11-year-old Achim moves from the orphanage where he has lived as long as he can remember to live in a house by the sea with Paul and Ines. He has mixed emotions about it all. Everything is strange. And it gets even stranger when he discovers a secret room with a door with a silver handle that only he can see. Inside the room is an iron cot and an iron table and a red-headed, pale boy with skin like ice. This boy is Arnim, and he does not belong in Achim’s world. Arnim died in that world when he was four. He has been trapped in the room ever since. He is held prisoner by The Nameless One who builds his palace from black and white tiles made of sorrow and longing, and only Achim can free him. Then he can become a bird and fly free. But will Achim be brave and strong enough? There is not much time.
This is a magical, lyrical, wonderful book with levels of meaning that will stay with young readers and older readers long after the book is finished. It is a perfect modern-day fairy tale, beautifully written with rich description and powerful imagery. It captures the fears and anxieties of Achim in the real world, as an orphan afraid to believe he can fit in in a family, as well as Achim in the fantasy world, facing a great white lion to free the boy he thinks of as his brother.
Like the Harry Potter books or the Narnia books, this book is written for readers between eight and 12 years old but will resonate with adults as well. Any reader who loves fantasy and enjoys a good hero’s quest will delight in it. It is only 195 pages long and the action is fast-paced, so it is possible to read it quickly, which is good since you will be anxious to see how it ends.