Book Review

The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston – John Tarrow

It is my stop on the blog tour for The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston by John Tarrow today. Thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, John and Unbound for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a copy of the book.

The Stranger's Guide to Talliston Cover


Abandoned and alone, thirteen-year-old Joe’s world is shattered when he enters a deserted council house and becomes trapped within a labyrinth protecting the last magical places on earth. There, Joe discovers a book charting this immense no-man’s land, without time or place, its thirteen doors each leading to a different realm. Hunted by sinister foes, the boy is forced ever deeper into both the maze and the mystery of his missing parents. What will he find at the labyrinth’s centre, and can it reunite him with the family he so desperately needs?

Crossing through diverse landscapes from Victorian Britain to fifties New Orleans, The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston is inspired by the internationally famous house and gardens dubbed ‘Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home’ by the Sunday Times . It is a classic YA tale of adventure that introduces readers to an otherworld hiding in plain sight, cloaked in magic and steeped in imagined history. Yet beyond its fearsome huntsmen and battling magicians dwells the secret that lies within all of us – the power to live extraordinary lives.


Every now and again a book comes along, and the second it is in your hands you just know that it is going to be something special, even before you open the cover. The Stranger’s Guide to Talliston is one such book. It is so beautiful that I must have spent a good quarter of an hour just admiring the covers when it landed on my doormat. Something about it just oozed magic, and I fell instantly in love.

When I finally managed to tear myself away from the cover and actually started reading, my love for this book just grew. It is written in a wonderfully lyrical language, full of mysterious rules and rhymes, and the author’s skill at moving between different dialogue styles as Joe journeys through the labyrinth really brought each character to life for me. There is a pretty big cast of characters to meet, but each one stands out so clearly, and I found I was sad to leave many of them behind as Joe moves on.

As someone who is attempting to write a fantasy book themselves, I was astounded by the level of research that must have gone into this book, as we encounter so many different places and magical belief systems and practices. Each new location appeared as vividly to me as if I was right there with Joe.

I feel like I am gushing a bit (okay, maybe a lot), but I just can’t speak highly enough of this book. The whole concept is like nothing I have ever read before, and I was totally swept away by it. I have already recommended it to my friend’s thirteen year old son – although it might appear quite a long book for younger teens, once you start reading, it doesn’t feel that way at all.


John Tarrow Author PicJohn Tarrow is a novelist, poet, storyteller and award-winning writer. His fascination with folk and faerie tales has taken him around the world, gathering threads of story and legend to weave into his own mythologies: his extensive studies in Lakota Sioux and Druidic traditions offer readers stories resonant with magic, folklore and
the wonders of the natural world. He spent twenty-five years transforming a three-bedroom, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex into the world-famous Talliston House and Gardens.


Make sure you pay a visit to the other blogs taking part in this tour to find out more about this incredible book.

The Strangers Guide BT Poster

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