Xannu tells the story of Terry West, a twelve-year-old English boy, who travels to an alternate world using rune coins that he discovered while digging for old bottles. In his other parallel life he is an eighteen-year-old soldier, Teern Truthbringer, who is tasked with finding the Xannu - 'he who will lead the people into deliverance'. The book's accompanying scriptures, Pika'Al (The Prophecy) by the ancient prophet Al'Zaneed, provide a history, backdrop and set of clues. The book is really two stories in one, as Terry switches between his two existences. Leading a journey of discovery in one land, and remaining an integral part of his circle of friends in another, leads to many dilemmas. How will he balance the two lives he leads, solve two sets of problems, and understand the lessons he receives from both? Only time will tell. But time is something he doesn't have too much of as everything is unfolding in ways that he could never have imagined!
Juggling two parallel worlds, storylines and switching between them smoothly isn't an easy task but Paul Dorset does this throughput the book and even makes it feel natural. The life of Terry West is one all of us have dreamed of, whisking away to a different world, having adventures but still returning in time for your mother's wonderfully cooked food.Dorset employs a tiered approach to introducing his characters and new ones keep coming in till the very end. This method works very well for the most part and is even necessary to unfold the story properly and keep the identity of the Xannu a mystery but the people who come late into the story feel slightly underdeveloped. The villain, Mayhem, supposed to be the enemy if the Almighty one, doesn't seem strong enough to be so. He's good (bad ?) enough to be an antagonist but he can't seem to pull off being the nemesis of all that is good. On the other hand, the character of Maria Pengollen is written damn well. The protagonist Terry West is very human, acting like any 12 year old would but its Maria who took me for the real ride. Though she is supposed to be a mother of perception, supposed to help and heal people, she is also new. Dorset's words reveal her inexperience and determination equally well.
One of the highlights of the story, is the friendship between Joe And Terry. Their friendly banter, personal troubles, school life are nearly perfect. The language Dorset uses is exactly how preteens talk, and is a huge help to the narrative. However, the problem is that some of this language and feel carries over to the other world as well where it feels weird because the setting of The Southern Lands is in medieval times. The prophecies mentioned at the beginning of every chapter and provided at the end of the book splendid, I wouldn't mind reading a book of verses written by Mr.Dorset.
After going through weeks of epic fantasy, Xannu was exactly what I needed, an easygoing but imaginative tale. It took me back to fantasy at it's simplest level and is a great read who people thinking of starting the genre and seasoned readers looking for a refreshing story.