Land of the Nurogons was the debut novel by Aiyven Mbawa, an 11 year old, British author. It is a middle grade adventure novel which follows the life of Hayden Smith, a 13 year old boy. Ihe first 100 or so pages of the book everything is relatively normal in his life. He attends school, meets with his friends and brickers with his sister, like any young teenager would. In these opening chapters, there’s a lot of character development and scene setting which I really liked.
Everything gets turned upside down when Hayden gets pulled down a black hole and ends up in the parallel universe Nurogonia, a land run by the Nurogons – four-fingered, two-toed, freckled muddy green creatures about the size of a toddler. The concept of a parallel universe reminded me a lot of Stranger Things and the Upside Down, however Nurogonia seemed more like a place I’d be happier to visit, rather than something from my nightmares. I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but one thing I will say is that I assumed once he first went down the black hole to Nurogonia, that that’s where he’d stay for the remainder of the story. I was quite surprised when he was allowed to leave and return to the real world, but told he must return at some point to complete a quest. Whilst he was in Nurogonia, the real world carried on as normal – so for this time Hayden was missing. I felt quite sorry for his parents really because he just vanished without trace, and returned like nothing had happened (and no one seemed to question it). Whilst he was ‘missing’, one chapter of the book was told from the perspective of Canada, Hayden’s older sister. This chapter was like a diary entry which I found really interesting.
Hayden has to fulfill his promise of returning to Nurogonia, but this time his sister comes along with him. In the first half of the book, the story is very much centred around Hayden, but during his second visit, the focus shifts away from him (though he’s still there), and there’s a lot more emphasis on the other characters. I liked this as you can see how the personality of all of the other characters change, not just Hayden. In Nurogonia, there’s a small team of teenagers who assemble in order to complete the quests set for them by the Nurogons.
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t my usual genre at all – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it. For me as an adult, it was a nice refreshing change from the usual books I read which tend to contain more violent or adult content. I think for a middle-grade reader it would be a fantastic read. The book has around 330 pages making it quite a substantial read for a younger reader. But there’s plenty of adventure to keep them drawn in from the beginning right to the end!
Also, hats off to Aiyven for publishing a book at such a young age! I can’t believe that she was able to write this book whilst she was still in primary school! You definitely wouldn’t think that it was written by someone so young. The language was sophisticated and varied and there were words in there that even I didn’t know the meaning of! I like the fact that Hayden is a similar age to the author, Aiyven. It means she was able to relate the characters to her own life and own personal experiences with school and friends, which made the story more convincing and that’s something that might have been missed if the author was older.
You can find Aiyven’s book, along with her sister Kirsten’s book ‘Sagas of Anya’ (a middle grade historical fiction novel) on their website: https://www.mbawabooks.co.uk/collections/paperbacks
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