The Amber Room, by Tom Harris is sure to become a classic. This modern take on traditional fairytales begins with young North, a 14 year old boy suffering from kleptomania. He’s been kicked out of his parent’s house because of it, and is living with his older sister, India. Despised as a thief in general, North’s family hates him; the only one who loves him is India, who works at a cinema, and is a dedicated college student. North’s life is complicated; the drive to steal things he has no use for rules his life, but India takes care of him as well as she can. One evening, while at the library studying, she falls from a fire escape and ends up in a coma.
North goes the hospital to be with her, where he meets Dr. Tan and Nurse Pat. Out of everyone else in his life, Nurse Pat and Dr. Tan are kind to him, despite knowing he compulsively steals things. Things look very bad for India, and North is desperate to save her. When he arrived at the scene of her accident he’d seen a shadow on the roof of the library and knew she had been pushed.
He finds a note in his pocket from Dr. Tan, telling him to meet him in ‘the Amber Room’; a cryptic not saying he could help North’s sister, and that ‘sometimes you have to go out before you can really go in.’ Intrigued and hopeful, he goes to meet Dr. Tan.
Strangely enough the elevator has a new button, for the ‘A R’. North takes it finding it opens directly into the Amber Room. The room really is amber, everything in it and the walls and the floors are amber. There are fairies in the door, which scream when it is opened.
Dr. Tan tells North his gift for stealing is what will save his sister. He is to go to other worlds, inside a book and steal certain things for Dr. Tan. The good Doctor tells him what he must do and assures him that everything in the other world is real, so he runs the risk of dying there if things go awry. And, since North is headed to Fairy-land, things do not go as smoothly as one would hope. First of all, North only steals things when he gets the overwhelming urge to do so, and he doesn’t feel the slightest urge to steal when presented with the first item.
North meets a fairy, Rosie Boots, who becomes entwined in his adventures. Nothing is what it seems in this series of amazing adventures. The characters are fully fleshed and colorful, without an excess of description. The dialogue is humorous, despite the serious nature of some of the events and I sat down and read it in one afternoon, nonstop.
This book leaves us hanging, but we are promised North and Rosie will return in the second book, the Amber Antidote. Despite the fact this book is a set up for the next book, I highly recommend it. It is a great read for young and old, despite the very occasional rough language. It may indeed be a young adult tale, but I found myself as engrossed as if it were a Harry Potter book! This tale stands beside the fabled Potter as one you will remember, and like me you will be eager for the next book!