10 August 2015

Kuan’s Wonderland: a quick guide

A young boy, raised by his solitary father, is captured and taken to Shiyan, a bizarre world where shape-shifting beings can morph into superior forms if they meet the challenges set by their masters. He is pressed by torturers to reveal a secret he is not aware he possesses. He finds himself cornered by Potokans, creatures despised and feared in equal measure. And he almost loses his life when he succumbs to temptation to take the Blessing dispensed by the mysterious Curator.

Exhausted by his failed attempts to escape, Kuan’s hope is revived by Amo, a being who only ever manifests herself as a small flame. She promises to help him reunite with his father. As they look for a way out, the boy is offered a chance to attain the highest form in Shiyan if he does the bidding of the most powerful figure in the realm. But as he gradually discovers what that involves, he begins to have second thoughts. At the same time, he starts to remember a dark secret connected with his father.

In the end, Kuan has to decide what to do when Shiyan splits into warring factions, knowing that what father would have wanted him to do requires him to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Kuan’s Wonderland has been widely acclaimed for its pace, imagination, and layers of political meaning:
• “Dark, twisted, sardonic, … [it is] an unmissable page-turner. Henry Tam has created a fantasy universe unlike any that has come before.” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild)
• “Simply a tour de force. It is … full of plot surprises and layers of deeper meaning.” (Ann Walker, Director for Education, WEA [Workers’ Educational Association])
• “It is vital that young people understand the problems of power inequality if we are to bring about change and Kuan's Wonderland offers a unique, imaginative, way of introducing them to the issue. We highly recommend it!" (Julie Thorpe, Head of School & Youth Programmes, the Co-operative College)
• “The fast-moving adventure in a new world, which sparkles with visually captivating creatures and imaginative technology, has already begun by the first line. … [The ending is] astonishing.” (Fantasy Book Review)
• “… a mesmerizing novel. It makes the imagination spring to life with amazing visions of strange beings and places.” (Nicolette Burford, Director, Documentary Film-Makers Cooperative)
• “A great book to open debate and enquiry with young people on society and politics.” (Gary Buxton, Chief Executive, Young Advisors)
• “An innovative and valuable way of engaging young people to explore issues surrounding equality and democracy in a way which speaks to them.” (Rachel Roberts, Director, Phoenix Education Trust)
• “… fast-paced while containing beautifully written and memorable passages. And the ending is tense, unexpected and powerful.” (Ben Chu, Economics Editor, The Independent newspaper)

You can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

When The Equality Trust launched the ‘Young Person’s Guide to Inequality’ in 2013, it selected Kuan’s Wonderland as the novel to recommend to raise interest in the problem of inequality.

According to Kate Pickett (Director, Equality Trust; & co-author of The Spirit Level):
Kuan’s Wonderland is a didactic novel that doesn’t hesitate to entertain the reader. It shows that political theorists can engage a wider public with an imaginative medium such as popular fiction without losing intellectual force. The Equality Trust welcomes this opportunity to work with Henry Tam with the publication of the learning resource for his novel as part of our Young Person’s Guide to Inequality.”

The supplementary learning resource setting out the key themes and discussion points of the novel, can be downloaded for free from the Equality Trust (beware of spoilers): ‘A Novel Exploration of Inequality'.
For a selection of readers’ comments on Amazon Review, click here.

For the article ‘When Plato Met Potter’ (published on Bookbrunch), click here.

For ‘Political Engagement of the Surreal Kind’ (excerpts from an interview with Henry Tam in ‘Shout Out’), click here.