Here are the occasional reflections of a joyful traveller along the strange pathways of fantasy and adventure. All my reviews are independent and unsolicited. I read many books that I don’t feel sufficiently enthusiastic about to review at all. Rather, this blog is intended as a celebration of the more interesting books I stumble across on my meandering reading journey, and of the important, life-affirming experiences they offer. It is but a very small thank you for the wonderful gifts their writers give.
Thursday 14 December 2023
Thursday 7 December 2023
Sometimes more is more
This has turned out to be a rather mixed year of reading. There have been several high profile and heavily promoted new MG/YA novels that I found rather disappointing. To cheer me along, though, there have been some fine follow-ups to existing, much admired books.These have included: Utterly Dark and The Tides of Time, a truly wonderful conclusion to the latest trilogy from Phillip Reeve; Rebel Fire, exciting sequel to a most original fantasy by Ann Sei Lin; The Case of the Chaos Monster, Patrice Lawrence’s new extension of her brilliant Elemental Detectives; and Podkin and the Singing Spear, yet another enchanting addition to Kieran Larwood’s extended fantasy series. It is always good to have more of the same, when that more is just as outstanding as its predecessors.
The best of the best
All the books I have reviewed this year have been special in some way; if they weren’t I wouldn’t have chosen to write them up. However, the year has included some remarkable highlights amongst new stand-alone titles. And what books these have been! They are some of the most creative, exciting, moving and truly life-enhancing novels I have had the thrill of reading for quite some time. So here (in no particular order, as they say) are my best of the best from 2023. Most fall broadly into the older MG/younger YA range, apart from those clearly indicated, which are most definitely for older teens. Like all the best ‘children’s’ books, I know lots of adults will enjoy these titles too. I certainly hope many teachers will add them to their repertoire of books to share and recommend in their vital task of promoting reading for pleasure.
Two remarkable books made a big impression on me early in the year and my high opinion of them has not wavered one jot since.
The Song Walker
Zillah Bethell’s stunning novel draws on First Nation Australian culture for its references and its beautifully written, multi-layered story, about two girls’ long treck across the outback, is full of resonant meaning. Often moving, it is never heavy. Its narrative, blending the naturalistic and the metaphorical, is nothing short of compulsive. This is children’s fiction of the highest order.
Candy Gourlay’s story of a First Nation American girl and her turbulent relationship with the dominating White Man culture is hard-hitting, disturbing, and deeply moving, although it is ultimately uplifting too. Its harsh implications are equally applicable to the many other instances of aggressive colonialism, which still too often roll on into disrespect of Black lives today. It is as engaging as it is relevant.
R. J. Palacio is, of course, best known for the publishing phenomenon that is Wonder. Her new novel is a very different book, yet here is the same understanding and the same deep humanity that she has always shown in her writing. But it is now expressed with a refinement, a subtlety that is more reflective, more poetic, yet no less rich and perhaps even more affecting. It is essentially the same wonder, but extended beyond the present. (First UK publication 2023)
To say Katya Balen never produces a bad book is an understatement. She somehow manages to pen one ravishingly beautiful, deeply moving novel after another. This new one is certainly no exception. Two sisters leave their home and follow a fox to begin a long and difficult trek through the unknown countryside beyond. This is inscape as well as landscape, both a real journey and a metaphorical one, conjured with this author’s trademark sensitivity and subtlety.
Surprisingly perhaps, in view of the difficult subject matter, there are already a number of outstanding children’s books dealing with death and bereavement. However, there is always room for more when they are as imaginatively conceived and wonderfully written as these two.
The Lovely Dark
Matthew Fox’s second outstanding book explores death and the afterlife with thoughtful sensitivity, subtly drawing in resonances with the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. After protagonist, Ellie, experiences her own death, we are completely hooked into what for her is a continuation of reality, however disorientated. It is a book that asks questions about life and death, but not one that offers any particularly dogmatic answers. Nor is it as morbid as the subject matter suggests, but ultimately comforting and reassuring for its young readers. It is a significant addition to children’s literature.
Finn Jones Was Here
Simon James Green has actually published two amazing books this year, books that really matter. His YA title Boy Like Me is sensitive, entertaining and of huge social importance. However I was bowled over by the skill with which he balances often farcical comedy with truly sensitive insight and positive messaging in his new MG novel. It succeeds in being both joyful and deeply affecting, making his challenging subject matter, a boy’s loss of his dearest friend, brilliantly accessible to young readers. It will help and support many as well as developing empathy in all its readers.
There is little that I enjoy more than a good fantasy and this year has brought two exceptional new additions to this genre.
Katherine Rundell adds another joy of a book to her already considerable canon of wonderful (and overall very diverse) fiction for young readers. This one fully deserves the many accolades it has already received and will I am sure go on to win awards aplenty. Here, she uses a range of children’s fantasy tropes to draw us into a story that grows ever richer and more compelling; by turns funny, thrilling, provocative and moving, However, in the end, it is the sheer quality of her writing, both her use of language and her storytelling, that makes this book so exceptional.
Nicola Davies’ follow-up to her outstanding novel The Song That Sings Us is actually a prequel, so can easily be read first, or even as a stand-alone. It is immersive epic fantasy at its best, the sort that you cannot put down and never want to to end. Her animal protagonists, anthropomorphic in thought, but still convincingly natural, are never sentimentalised and just as involving as the finest human characters. The indictment of circuses, and man’s attempted domination of animals generally, is immensely powerful and the quest for freedom and wildness is intoxicating.
Verse novels have become a bit of a thing recently, with very variable degrees of effectiveness. However this year two examples, each for a different age-group, stood out as shining examples of just how potent a narrative medium this can be.
The Final Year
Although I don’t always follow the crowd, I have to agree with the huge number of opinions that rate Matt Goodfellow’s novel very highly indeed. The elements of his story are often much more poetry than mere ‘verse’ and he captures the challenges, thoughts and feelings of a young boy as he moves through his final year of Primary School with remarkable honesty and understanding, often very movingly. I particularly admire the book’s clever and insightful symbiotic relationship with Davis Almond’s seminal Skellig. (As an important follow-up to this, it is worth noting that the 25th anniversary edition of Skellig, also published this year, is fully illustrated for this first time, with quite superb images by Tom de Freston.)
Crossing the Line
Tia Fisher’s novel has some interesting points of comparison with The Final Year. It is for rather older readers (teens) but the level of poetry is again skilfully wrought and remarkably powerful, whilst still effectively carrying a hugely engaging narrative. The hard-hitting, detailed story, of a boy’s downward slide into disastrous involvement with drugs gangs, is salutary and told with deep understanding, even where there isn’t approval. The whole is a telling masterpiece for our times, resonant with human truth and compassion.
There are three other books for much older readers (teen+) that I Icannot miss out here. Difficult, challenging reads, often involving bad language, violence and delinquent, even criminal, behaviour, they are great works that have been real highlights of my reading year.
Using the ‘games’ they play as an exploration of the behaviour and relationships of a small group teenage boys from contrasting backgrounds, Luke Palmer’s devastating novel delves deep into the issues of adolescence. He truly understands boys of this age and, like the other writers here, although very much in his own way, he can express their thoughts, feelings and behaviours with powerful authenticity. Told from several perspectives, it is compulsive reading throughout, but it is the novel’s long closing section that lifts it into the realm of truly fine literature.
Brian Conaghan is a remarkable writer and this is one of his best.The story of a teen boy’s desperate struggle to free himself from the cloying influence of a seriously disadvantaged home neighbourhood is as hard-hitting and grimly realistic as it gets. Using as its locale an area of run-down urban estates near Glasgow, with its added stresses of sectarian Celtic/Rangers ‘tribalism’, he portrays with real insight a world of youths pulled into drugs, alcohol abuse and gratuitous violence. Yet the story is heart-wrenching as well as gut-wrenching, it is full of warmth and humanity, of the hope of something better, however painfully devastating it is to achieve.
More overtly literary than these others, Michael Egan’s fine novel is replete with potent images and powerful intensity that could belong as much to poetry as to this fiction. These are imaginatively mixed with speculation about potential disturbing developments of current science/technology to provide a remarkably potent exploration of an aspect of adolescence - this time the isolation and dislocation, the feeling of not belonging to the world, that many young people experience. It is as thrilling in its writing as it is chilling in its content.
Publisher Barrington Stoke do an amazing job of providing accessible books for dyslexic and other less confident readers, across a range of ages. A surprisingly large number of their titles also prove to be high quality reads for all. There have been quite a few of these this year, including ones by Katya Balen, Hilary McKay, and Lucy Strange. However three are especially memorable.
The death this year of Marcus Sedgwick was a tragic loss; he was one of our very finest writers for young people (and older). So we must be thankful to have this, his last story, published posthumously. Here, with a narrative strongly rooted in place, his economy of language and its terse directness actually enhance the effectiveness of the story being told. He brings setting and characters to life with vivid starkness. He also succeeds in communicating deep feelings with touching and often beautiful simplicity, creating telling images that will live long in the minds of readers, as will his whole legacy of wonderful work.
Keith Gray is another of the small number of contemporary writers who understand just perfectly how to represent the behaviour, thinking and speech of young teenage boys. His characters, their issues, their behaviours (right or wrong) and, perhaps most importantly, their dialogue are spot on; full of honest emotion and the naive attitudes of youth. These are youngsters in that awkward time of being neither child nor adult, who think they know exactly what’s what, although, as yet, they can’t and don’t. But that does not mean their integrity is one jot the less. This story has an impact and contemporary relevance way out of proportion to its short length.
The Piano at the Station
This time the issues of a troubled teen girl provide the moving storyline. Helen Rutter’s skilfully crafted novella is not actually anywhere near as soft-centred as either its title or cover image might seem to suggest. Certainly soft is not a word you could use for protagonist, Lacey, at least on the outside. Again an authentic adolescent voice is brilliantly caught and if there is an up-beat ending to her tale, it is also provides a salutary lesson for those facing challenging behaviour from students. The book carries a strong shout-out for the arts in schools, which is brilliant.
Publisher of the Year
My publisher of the year has to be small independent Everything With Words. Of course, not all their books hit the spot with me; they publish a good range of titles. However, recently an amazing number of their new ones have excited and thrilled me. Considering their size this is truly remarkable. I particularly admire the brave way they seek out quality and originality, rather than simply following the most recent writing fads or trying to ride on the back of existing bestsellers. It shows real integrity and fills me with hope for the future of children’s and YA literature.
If interested, all the books I have highlighted here are reviewed in much greater detail earlier on my blog. Although I read very extensively, there will, of course, be other outstanding new books that have slipped under my radar. I hope to catch up with them eventually,
My heartfelt thank go, as always to all the teachers, librarians, book bloggers and others who do so much to help young people grow with and through books. And of course, to the authors, illustrators and publishers who give us all such wonderful, life-enhancing gifts.
Tuesday 5 December 2023
Cover illustration: David Dean
The genre that might loosely be called ‘children’s adventures’ has been a mainstay of children’s fiction for a very long time. Broadly, ‘ordinary’ children, living in the ‘real’ world, undertake exciting exploits way outside those their readers are ever likely to experience. Typically, these fictional children act independently from grown-ups to solve puzzles, thwart dastardly villains and survive dangers, whilst saving their community, family or friends. However, they still arrive home in time for a cosy tea, or similar, almost always involving favourite food. Such books play an important part in many children’s reading. They allow them to experience vicariously thrilling adventure, alongside fictional friends who can nevertheless feel very real, without ever leaving the safety and comfort of home. (That’s why the ‘back in time for tea’ ending is such an important trope.)
Much the same, but much better!
Now the mantle of earlier writers like Edith Nesbit, Enid Blyton and Malcolm Saville, has been magnificently taken up by Natasha Farrant. However, there are very significant differences between this contemporary author and some of her predecessors. For a start she is a much finer writer than some of them. Her story content is more imaginative and far more thoughtful too. This makes today’s young readers particularly fortunate; they can share all the excitement of ‘children’s adventure’ whilst experiencing wonderful quality writing at the same time.
This, her latest tittle is an outstanding example. Of course it meets all contemporary sensibilities and avoids sensitivities too, which many of these older books do not. With ecological awareness thrown in, what more’s to want?
All her earlier books are also well worth exploring.. The many children seeking this type of reading experience will be richly rewarded.
Friday 1 December 2023
Cover art: Andrew Bannecker
The verse novel can be an amazingly effective, and affecting, literary form in the right hands. And this powerful and deeply insightful example shows that Tia Fisher is most certainly amongst the authors who demonstrate its potential brilliantly.
Like not like
For me, Crossing the Line immediately threw up comparisons with two other outstanding books I have read this year. It has many important things in common with Matt Goodfellow’s The Final Year, also a verse novel. What these two works of literature have in common is their writer’s ability to craft poems, which are poems, not simply ‘verse’, or even, as I have seen in some alleged verse novels, merely prose broken into short lines. Both authors use their linked sequence of individual poems to express their characters authentic thoughts and feelings with precision. Both catch and hold a moving intensity in a small number of perfectly chosen words and images, laid out meaningfully on the page. At the same time they succeed in crafting an overall narrative that is complex and compelling, capturing tellingly the truth of their protagonist’s life. They communicates straight to the reader with consummate poignancy.
There is a good example quite early on in the Crossing the Line where a poem about the Alton Towers rollercoaster not only brilliantly captures the experience of the ride itself, but also provides graphic expression of protagonist Erik’s feelings when he hears of his mother’s pregnancy by a man he can’t abide. It is only one of many sections that take your breath away with the perfect aptness of image and form. Tia Fisher knows exactly how to say much through little.
There is further connection too, at least superficially, in that Crossing the Line takes up its protagonist’s life journey roughly where The Final Year ends, at Year 7, the start of Secondary School. However, this does not mean that the two novels immediately follow in terms of reader suitability. Crossing the Line is a hard-hitting novel about a boy’s descent into involvement with drug dealing, eventually ‘county line’ gangs, involving associated bad language and no little violence. It is deeply disturbing as well as richly rewarding, and probably not for younger readers.
And it is in this aspect that it reminded me of my second comparison, Brian Conaghan’s equally potent but devastating Treacle Town. In many ways both these books deal with similar subject matter, and with similar unflinching honesty too. However, Treacle Town is very much about escaping from the cloy of a particular urban environment, drug and alcohol abuse and street gang violence. Crossing the Line is a more individual journey. (although sadly, many follow it), more focused on personal circumstances and relationships, as it follows in intimate detail Erik’s troubled and troubling route into terrifying criminality. If the one book is about pulling out, this one is about getting pulled in.
The minutiae of daily life, and Erik’s turbulent emotional reactions, become important in Crossing the Line.. His life is lived small, and in the minute. Those without future have only the present. There are no consequences in the present. Consequences belong to the future. And for him, of course, the future does indeed bring consequences. And every nuance of feeling, every bad decision, as he struggles and fails to deal with heartbreak and hostility, his life collapsing in a domino row, is caught with turbulent veracity in Erik’s own voice.
In the end we are left with understanding and empathy even though it is without approval. There is a poem near the middle of the narrative when Erik’s squawking baby sister suddenly smiles at him, and for a fleeting moment he feels what it is like to be special to someone. We understand that Erik is not ‘bad’; he has been dealt a hand in life that he has not the resources to play. And so it plays him. He could have been helped .The question, the challenge, the novel poses for all of us is who could have helped him, when and how? The answer does not lie solely with others.
This is a deeply important book in the relevance of its story and a breathtaking one in the skill of its telling.
Wednesday 29 November 2023
Cover: Micaela Alciano
Some authors make a career of repeatedly writing very similar books. Not Nicholas Bowling.. His output so far had been amazingly varied. His debut, Witch Born was a historical fiction set against a dark background of alleged witchcraft and Elizbethan politics. He followed that with the Carnegie shortlisted In the Shadow of Heroes, an exciting ‘mythical’ adventure in Ancient Rome. His third title, Song of the Far Isles, was, in further contrast, an enchanting Celtic fantasy, filled with the strains of magical music. And now he gives us a full-blown Gothic Romance in The Undying of Obedience Wellrest.
However, what does link all these books is a consistently outstanding use of language and expert storytelling, providing hugely engaging, entertaining reads.
His exciting new title has all the classic elements of its genre. In a gloomy Victorian setting there is a secluded village graveyard with bodies being stolen by ‘Resurrection Men’. There is an ancient, reclusive gravedigger and his grandson, Ned, one of the two protagonists from whose interleaved perspectives the narrative is cleverly constructed. There is a crumbling manor with an impoverished owner, whose daughter, Obedience (Bede) is the other protagonist. There is a dastardly villain, Phineas Mordant, physically distinguished by a brass prosthetic nose.This creepy gentlemen seeks to marry Bede, with her father’s blessing, but to the total consternation of the girl herself. There are grim ‘scientific’ experiments in a quest to re-enliven a grisly selection of creatures, body parts and indeed entire, if rotting, corpses. There is an evil alchemist ancestor whose dark, hidden secrets Mordant craves to uncover and others try to protect.
Bede herself is as feisty and wilful a ‘heroine’ as any of her most independent-minded predecessors, and perhaps even a little more so.
‘Well you gave me the name,’ (Obedience admonished her father.) ‘It’s not my fault if I took it as a challenge.’ (p 54)
Hiding malicious intent behind a facade of slimy charm, Mordant is the perfect boo-hiss villain. It inevitably does not take long for simple, honest, kindly Ned to fall headlong for Bede and develop a loathing for her intended husband. And the girl herself is, of course, not blind to his qualities, despite the stark gap between their social standing,
‘I had certainly never had a friend who seemed as lonely;’ (she says of him) ‘none who might understand all the strange and sad corners of my soul.’ (p 211)
Bowling you over
There are many delightful inventions of this author too, though. If there is a novel where the hero frequently receives advice and assistance from his loyal and much loved pet fly, I have yet to read it.
However, it is not the originality or otherwise of Nicholas Bowling’s story elements but the construction of his narrative that is so masterly. His language is perfectly evocative of these dramatic characters, dark locations and chilling atmosphere. His plot is replete with twists and turns which take you completely by surprise, cause you to rethink, over and again, all your previous understand of who people are as well as your expectations of what will happen. This means ever more compellingly drawn on to find out how things are going to resolve. It is all just deliciously gruesome, full of thrilling jeopardy and totally compelling.
This new book does not have any pretensions to deeply meaning but it is a must for young gothic enthusiasts from about twelve years old. I think many other readers who like to be drawn into an engrossing story will hugely enjoy it too. Some new to the genre may even be tempted on to explore some of the classics, the original Frankenstein, perhaps.
Micaela Alciano is to be complimented on the glorious cover, which succeeds in being both darkly romantic and strikingly compelling, just like the text. Great to see the fly there too!
Wednesday 22 November 2023
Cover: Holly Ovenden
Here is novel primarily for older teens. But it is a truly remarkable one.
I love books that don’t patronise their intended young audience, and this one certainly doesn’t. It is probably not a book to entice reluctant readers, but rather one for the confident and committed. For the right readers, though, it offers rich reward, as well as challenge. It will do much to lead in the direction of full adult literature, stretching awareness of just what fiction can be and do.
Even the title raises eyebrows. Runner Hawk No verb. No definite or indefinite articles. No comma. Is it one thing or two? It is enigmatic and rather brutal. Here is a writer who is not going to pander to you, his reader. It slaps you in the face without explaining why. And so, slight affront notwithstanding, it immediately pulls you in. Like title, like story.
That said, this is for the most part an easy, quick read in the technical sense. The challenge, the disquiet, is in the content, not in the language. Except, that is, for an occasional trip up over speech. The author never uses speech marks and only an occasional ‘said’. So it can be difficult to distinguish between what is voiced aloud, what simply thought and what just described. It is as if the author is saying, I am the writer. I do things my way. I won’t bow to convention, or to you. You need to stay with me. So you do. And again you are pulled along. And in.
There are passages here that feel as if they are directly borrowed from the author’s experience, vivid descriptions of places, incidents and reactions, If they are not actual recollections, then they are conjured with a wordsmith’s skill that conveys intense veracity. Either way they come across as a writing equivalent of hyper-realism in painting. They add a credibility that then bleeds into incidents in the narrative that otherwise seem bizarre, both to his narrator and to the reader. The building of this tension around what is or isn’t, could or couldn’t be ‘normal’ is brilliantly done. It is a big part of what drives the narrative so powerfully through the early part of a book where, superficially, very little is actually happening.
The focus of the text is a first person narrative by seventeen year-old Leo, reflecting with stark immediacy his thoughts and experiences through several days of a severe winter. Apparently a rather isolated, sheltered young man, he is clearly on the verge of physical maturity, but also, perhaps, of mental instability. He is experiencing a disconnect with reality. He reflects, I’d rather imagine a reality than know one.’ (p 57) He is aware that there is something wrong with him, but can’t begin to understand what. He sees strange phenomenon: a runner motionless in mid-stride, as if petrified; a hovering hawk fixed in the sky, but showing no sign of movement. He experiences disturbing physical episodes, where all or part of his body freezes into complete immobility. He cannot remember things he knows he should, like his previous birthdays and what presents he got. Later, he sees ‘ghost’ figures that cannot possibly be there. Is everything in his mind? If so his mind is decidedly weird.
Runner Hawk is all very bleak. I rather think a tag cloud for this text would bring out particular words huge and bold (at least that’s how it feels): Cold. Stillness. Seizure. Frozen. Standstill. Separate. Uncertain. Unstable. Beyond Time. Leo seems to have lost touch with truth. Everything around him seems pretence, fraud, not the real thing; a Beatles tribute band, pet dog cloned, lies he feels compelled to tell about himself to keep people happy.
With consummate skill, Michael Egan draws you into Leo’s disturbed and disturbing experience, and makes it riveting. I do not usually set much store by jacket quotes. But here the one from (the wonderful) Zillah Bethell has it to a tee. ‘Mesmerising Unsettling’. Yes it is both these. And both simultaneously. Two Words. Exactly So.
Leo befriends Eadie, younger daughter of the local vicar, and is drawn into a pledge to help her discover the supposed murderer of her missing older sister, Becca. But A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, this book is certainly not. As his budding, but desperately inexperienced relationship with Becka develops, the mystery of her sister, if such it is, becomes only another aspect of Leo’s search for truth and freedom.
Ted Hughes wrote a staggering book of poems called What Is The Truth? That could well be the title of Michael Egan’s novel too, at least for its first two thirds. The question is Leo’s obsession. ‘I think that’s why I like Lucky Jim. (He says.) It’s all about truth and that’s something I think about a lot. My truth, what it is and how to find it.’ (p 73)
And then the story accelerates down a slope into what feels like a different reality, but has actually been there all along. The villages and fields of affluent, rural Cheshire segue into a vast glass pyramid, blank white corridors, numbered doors that hide clandestine research facilities. It is a world that feels like it belongs to science fiction/fantasy, perhaps because it does. But, for Leo, this is the world where his truth, his reality lies. And, when he finds it, it is a deep, dark, shocking, truth, both for him and for the reader.
In many ways this book is as chilling as it gets. It is a very hard one to read, in the emotional sense. The back cover suggests comparisons with Never Let Me Go and The Catcher in the Rye that are at least partly valid. It certainly shares the affective desolation of the first of these great books. But it is ultimately perhaps a little more like the second; at least there is a glimmer of the carousel at the end. Finding Becca’s killer is not so much a goal in itself as a very particular and moving way for frozen Leo to find his own release.
To say much more, would be to say too much more.
Enough that Runner Hawk combines the sensibility of a true poet with the narrative power of a fine novelist. It may be bleak but it is also beautiful and deeply affecting. It is devastatingly brilliant, and provokes a lot of thought about some of the big issues in life. It runs. It flies.
Saturday 18 November 2023
Cover illustration: Dana SanMar
I have been an admirer of Sam Gayton since his first book, The Snow Merchant, back in 2011. He is not the most prolific of children’s writers, but has since kept up a steady flow of titles, all of which have been delightfully original and inventive. Most recently, he has moved into books for slightly older children (upper MG /younger YA) showing the same remarkable flair. His previous novel, The Last Zoo, was an absolute riot of whimsical imagerations (his word). It is glorious entertainment and well worth seeking out for any who haven’t read it.
Differently the same
World Weavers is a rather more serious, immersive fantasy, but the author’s original invention is again in full evidence, a compelling attribute in a market where too many fantasies offer only minor variations on the same characters and scenarios. Here there are no orphans suddenly invited to magical schools or plunging through an unexpected portal to find a missing sibling in a faery world. Sam Gaston’s characters do move between worlds, as happens with remarkable frequency. They use their power as ‘weavers’ to find ways through worlds using ‘waythreads’ and to create things they need by re-pattering the nature of what is around them. His three intriguing protagonists, a disorientated boy and two sisters, are not without personality flaws. One sister is garrulous in the extreme, the other nothing short of truculent. Nevertheless they engage the reader fully in surprising events and encounters. It is all very thrilling and entertaining stuff.
Clever writing, which switches perspective to follow, in turn, each of the three main characters, keeps the narrative developing compulsively. It is a great read from a writer who I think does not always fully attract the attention he deserves. I was delighted to see this book amongst the latest Yoto Carnegies writing nominations and would love to see it in the longlist. (See my last post.) Hopefully this nomination will attract many more readers to a hugely enjoyable fantasy.