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I'm trying to locate a book that I read in the late 1980s, when I was somewhere in the range of ten to twelve. (It may have been intended for slightly older teens, since I recall it seeming quite dark to me at the time.) Three children (a mixture of British and American) meet on a resort island off the British coast. There, they are lured into a basement by a sort of goblin, who paints the walls all around them to look like a swamp, which then becomes real.

They find themselves in a fantasy world, where things can be painted into existence with a magic brush, and each of them has been brought there to help the corrupt king (and the even more evil forces that control him) keep various population groups under control. I don't remember that much about the later parts of the book, but I just remembered that it had a small number of line drawing illustrations.

I do recall that I was quite impressed with it, and I thought my kids might like it if I could find it again.

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Well, since I've been thinking about this for a couple days, the answer suddenly came to me. This was The Mural Master by Adrienne Jones.

Book cover image

Lured into a magical mural by jaunty and mysterious Til Pleeryn whose art has breeched ""a thin spot in time,"" four children from Pawthany-On-Isle become Beyonders in the roughtly corresponding world of Pathania and find themselves pawns in a King-Council struggle where one side is as cruel and despotic as the other. The land is divided into mutually suspicious populations of lively Troges, plump Freelanders, timid Dalgurians and surly Hoonerans -- all plagued by carniverous trees (called Eebolyns) and variously transported by flying Ulfs or galloping Zylboks. The Beyonders of course come into some rough treatment in the natives' hands (and branches) but what with Carrie's pluck, Digby's music, Tonio's tale spinning and Leo's wits they manage to unite all forces against the rulers so that trust and brotherhood triumph in the end without a shot being fired. Adrienne Jones handles the devices of post-Tolkien fantasy cleverly -- Til's mural makes for a handy entry, the explanatory references to simultaneity and such are suitably offhand, and the victory by disarmament a neat updating of the good-over-evil outcome -- but they remain devices. There is a tired stamped out quality to the canvas filled with oddly-named creatures with their taglike traits, and even Til's occasional summoning rhymes -- more singsong than incantation -- betrays the mechanical nature of the whole creation.

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