The Mystery of Nida Valley joyfully brings us a classic situation – a secret place alongside our world but hidden, a place of magic, adventure and startling inhabitants, but it does so with a welcome twist.

It’s pleasing to find such a fantasy grounded so well in an Australian context. No vague ‘otherworld’ here, The Mystery of Nida Valley is solidly set in Queensland. The primeval creatures that are hidden in the valley are drawn from detailed research of Australia’s rich but neglected palaeontology and add to the consistency of setting. Dangerous creatures lurk, challenges must be overcome, initiations into a secret society of guardians must be undertaken, all against the lush and rich background of the magical valley. Nida Valley is more than a location, it’s a character in its own right.

In other ways, this is a coming of age story, with young people gradually discovering the true nature of their world. The key characters begin as children, protected and unaware. Throughout the book they learn the secrets of the world and their vital role in it. Their transition to awareness is – naturally – a testing one, fraught with perils that are both mundane (political shenanigans) and outlandish (attacks from deadly prehistoric animals). A key to their growth is the discovery of freedom through the means of flight. This exhilarating liberty, however, comes with its own demands and trials, a central part of the book.

The Mystery of Nida Valley is a magical fantasy adventure in a detailed and rich Australian context.

Michael Pryor. Author of The Laws of Magic series and much more.

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