BfK 10 – 14 Middle/Secondary New Talent The Eye of the North HHHH

Sinéad O’Hart, Stripes, 978-1- 8741-5941-0, 251pp, £6.99pbk

It is always a pleasure to meet

characters who immediately demand attention. Enter Emmeline Widget, daughter of scientist parents who are almost always absent. Then there is Thing, a boy with no other name and a mysterious past. Emmeline is convinced her parents are trying to poison her and has spent her life preparing for every eventuality. When a letter arrives with the news that her parents are dead. Emmeline must leave Widget Manor for the first time. It is the start of an adventure in which Emmeline and Thing must save the world. The

action is non-stop and

relentless as our two protagonists face not just one villain but a number of characters all with the same goal; immortality and control of the Kraken. However, the author handles her narrative with dexterity carrying the juggling

between each

reader with her, character

so the different storylines work in parallel before meeting. The story is incident packed, perhaps too

The Ice Garden HHHHH

Guy Jones, Chicken House Books, 978-1-9114-9004-3, 224pp, £6.99 pbk

What would your life be like if you were unable to go out in the sun at all? This is what Jess has faced all her life; she is allergic to sunlight. When she goes out she has to be completely covered up including a hood that hides her face and goggles. She longs to be normal, to have a friend, for her mum to be less controlling and anxious. So when she squeezes through a gap in the park and finds herself in a world of ice and no sun she feels she has found her very own heaven – but has she? This is Guy Jones’ debut novel,

and it shows great promise. While the elements may be familiar, Jones handles his materials confidently and with an attractive freshness. The reader is intrigued by the world he creates for Jess and by the character of Owen, the ice boy who becomes her friend. Nor are these elements random.

The life that Jess lives

combined with her vivid storytelling imagination provides a link between the two realities, while the connection with Davey, a victim of an accident and in a coma, is another link that clear-eyed young readers will make if they want to. The narrative moves briskly with plenty of hold the

dialogue to attention. The drama of

about the gods, as well as their co- stars in the stories, the giants and the dwarfs, and Loki, the trickster who lives with the gods and who used to make them laugh. Jeffrey Alan Love’s dramatic

and beautiful

figures punctuate the tellings and he provides an inky atlas of

to the same prison as her sister. course the underlying question

silhouette the

linked worlds of Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim and Nilfheim together with an illustrated guide to the characters in the opening pages. Even those coming completely new to the myths therefore will quickly be familiar with the major players.

Of is

whether Sasha truly is innocent and if so, then who has set her up and why? This is a great adventure story

full of intrigue and hidden villains. It is also a story about family and the strong bonds between siblings (although not all as you will find out). The author has created a worthy heroine in Valor, someone who is willing to stand up for her beliefs and has the courage to follow her convictions.

world that is more than reminiscent of


The story is set in a and

the names re-inforce this feeling.

characters’ It is

packed, but it makes for a rich and truly immersive experience with a satisfying conclusion. There


a wide cast to enjoy in cameo – Madame Blanchefleur, Igimaq and the wonderful Meadowmane, an Aesirsmount, a horse of the gods. This is not a novel to demand deep thought; this is a wild, imaginative adventure to carry one away in the company of characters one would like to meet again. Here is a new young author to watch. FH

the ice garden, both in its beauty and in its destruction, is gripping; the reader feels the chill – but also the excitement. Jess is an attractive protagonist who will easily make the friends she so longs for in the readers who join her story. ‘Magic – friendship – adventure’ proclaims the cover. It is right – this is a story you want to read to the final word. FH

Norse Myths Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki


Kevin Crossley Holland, ill. Jeffrey Alan Love, Walker Studio, 240pp, 978-1406361841, £18.99, hbk

‘When I think about the Vikings,’ Kevin Crossley-Holland tells us in the introduction to this magnificent book, ‘my eyes brighten, my heart beats faster, and my hair stands on end.’ His new retellings of Norse myths will have exactly the same effect on readers. Bold yet flawed, all-powerful and doomed, the gods of the Vikings seem closer to us now than they’ve ever been and this collection takes us to the heart of their world. Crossley-Holland tops and tails the collection with two stories about King Gylfi of Sweden. Tricked by a goddess to whom he has been generous, the king disguises himself as a footsore traveller and journeys

to Valhalla

to find out all that he can about the gods. His questions are answered by three wise kings so readers too learn

28 Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018

also a world in which the rulers are hereditary queens and men have a more advisory role, which brings a slight twist to the plot; importantly we know that the state is facing danger from elsewhere and needs to be creating alliances in order to keep its independence.

These are the sort

Eighteen stories follow, and what stories they are: tales

of trickery,

battle, betrayals and transformations. Each has its own moral or lesson to be learned. The scale of the stories is huge (and Love’s monumental illustrations

suit violence,

Amongst there’s

them the perfectly),

but Crossley-Holland is a masterly storyteller, and readers will feel that he is speaking to them and them alone.


drama for

and quiet

moments, for individual voices, for humour, for

surprising glimpses

of the natural beauty of the Norse landscapes. And throughout there is a sense of progression, of the stories building to the final chapter. It’s called The Last Battle, and Gylfi, by then at the end of his own life, travels once again to Valhalla for the answer to his question, ‘Must whatever begins also end?’ Hair-raising stuff indeed. The Norse myths are some of the

best stories ever told and this is a book to inspire and thrill all readers. AR

The Prisoner of Ice and Snow HHHHH

Ruth Lauren, Bloomsbury, 278pp, 9781408872758, £6.99

When Sasha is imprisoned for the theft of a national treasure it not only threatens the future of the nation but it also ruins her parents and her twin sister Valor.

of themes that we still find today, so that there is a real link to our world and the issues that young people see being discussed around them. As with any good story this author allows you to take different things from the book; it can be read as a brilliant thriller but it also has deeper messages as well. I am delighted that it has a sequel due soon and I look forward to joining Valor and her friends as they continue their adventures. MP

Outwalkers HHH

Fiona Shaw, David Fickling Books, 422pp, 9781788450003, £10.99

Dystopia scenarios come in many fictional forms, but seldom as regionally based as here. In this tense story, a future England has been taken over by a wicked political cabal while over the border in Scotland ordinary decency still prevails. Brave orphan Jake, whose parents have been murdered because they knew too much, manages to break out from the sadistic boarding establishment which has become his new home. He then links up with a gang of strongly self-supportive children

intent on

making it to the far North. Fiona Shaw describes their subsequent journey with relish, repeatedly making the point that face-recognition technology among other

developments now

makes it much easier for dictatorships to keep a tab on all and anyone. So the final escape by a gang of children plus dog, living rough and without friends, is little short of miraculous. Shaw writes well, and there are memorable

some Fortunately her sister

thinks that she is innocent and vows to free Sasha and solve the mystery. In order to do this Valor stages an attempt on the life of the young Prince Anatol and gets herself sentenced

passages, least when the children other occupants. But

potentially the

not try living

underground in London for a while. There they explore disused tube stations while keeping a look out for


dangerous never

quite explains why everything has

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