Steve Alton Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Sidelights
Born in Yorkshire, England; Education: University of York, degree (biology). Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, gardening, painting, playing computer games, listening to music, growing carnivorous plants.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, 1251 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401.
Writer. Worked as a river surveyor; conservation officer in Nottinghamshire, England, for seven years; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England, currently plant collector.
The Malifex, Flyways (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2001, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
The Firehills, Carolrhoda Books (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.
British writer Steve Alton is the author of The Malifex, a fantasy novel that reflects its author's love of the English landscape, particularly of Dorsetshire, where Alton's story is set. The story introduces Sam, who hopes to avoid the rural surroundings his parents have chosen to summer in by befriending a local girl named Charly. While normally interested more in video games than in other people, Sam is inspired by the adventurous Charly to explore the wild areas near their Dorset town. When the two teens stumble on an ancient grave and accidentally release Amergin, the spirit of the powerful apprentice of Merlin the magician, their summer becomes more exciting than any of Sam's video games. Amergin explains that the children are being pursued by shape-shifting underlings loyal to the evil Malifex, and outlines their role in preserving the delicate balance between good and evil that the Malifex seeks to disrupt. Alton's novel "is plot driven, and has plenty of action," commented School Library Journal critic Michele Ca-pozzella, while John Peters wrote in Booklist that The Malifex "takes readers down a well-traveled road, but it's a smooth ride, with lighter moments and drama in generous measure." A Kirkus Reviews critic went so far as to state that the novel presents "an interesting counterpoint to the many fantasies with a more Judeo-Christian take on the battle between good and evil."
Alton continues the adventures of Sam, Charly, and Amergin in The Firehills, as the aftershocks of the battle against the region's evil forces begin to be felt. Each of the familiar characters has been somewhat changed by their ordeal: Sam now possesses startling new powers; Charly, whose mother practices white magic, has been initiated into the world of wizard craft; and Amergin has lost his energy and digressed into an otherworldly couch potato. The three must unite however, against the threat of a group of vicious fairies called the Sidhe, who are intent upon channeling the powers of a local Celtic harvest god for their evil purposes. Krista Hutley, reviewing the novel for Booklist, stated that, "a quickly wrapped-up ending notwithstanding," The Firehills "won't disappoint fans of the first book." Noting that "large dollops of occult ritual and philosophy" mix with Celtic folklore in the book, a Kirkus Reviews writer added that readers will eagerly turn pages as Alton's "fast-paced plot gallops to the dramatic climax."
Trained as a biologist, Alton now works as a conservationist and helps manage and maintain a property for the Royal Botanic Gardens. Discussing the basis for his fantasy fiction, Alton noted on his home page that he was inspired by reading Susan Cooper's fantasy series "The Dark Is Rising" as a child. Cooper's book "is firmly rooted in places I had visited on holiday, places like Cornwall and Wales, and really brings those places to life…. I wanted to do something similar for Dorset."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 2002, John Peters, review of The Malifex, p. 122; October 1, 2005, Krista Hutley, review of The Firehills, p. 47.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of The Malifex, p. 1026; September 1, 2005, review of The Firehills, p. 968.
School Library Journal, November, 2002, Michele Capozzella, review of The Malifex, p. 154.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2002, review of The Malifex, p. 290.
Steve Alton Home Page, http://steve-alton.com (February 24, 2006).
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