BfK 14+Secondary/Adult continued

judge who is the bodyguard for Cassa (leader of the judges in the area). How all of these interwoven threads are sorted makes for a rich and magical tale where it is difficult to be certain where loyalties lie. This is a very complex story and

I found that it took a while to sort out the different factions. It is set in modern Dublin and the surrounding countryside and the author has used the mythology of the country to build the framework of the story. The story of the Wren hunt is primarily a Celtic legend and it appears in a variety of guises in Ireland, Brittany and even into the Norse world It has been used before in literature, in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising for example. With sympathetic characters in both of the warring groups it demands a second reading; there’s a real sense that this is a special book worth deserving careful

reading to fully appreciate

its merits. For many readers this will be the perfect mix of magic and the modern world, others will need to go with the ‘slow burn’ approach. Whichever group you are, I definitely recommend that you give it a try. MP

Out Of The Blue HHHHH

Sophie Cameron, Macmillan, 280pp, 978-15098-5316-8, £6.99 pbk

Jaya’s world is in turmoil. Her mother has died, an embryonic relationship with her would-be

collapsed, her father has given up his job....and now he insists that they travel to Edinburgh because he has become utterly obsessed with the Beings which have been falling from the sky. They look like all the illustrations commonly seen in religious tracts and secular paintings but they never survive their falls and so nothing is known about their origins or motivations in travelling to Earth. Her father spends

all his time

plotting the destination of the next fall and so Jaya and her sister Rani find themselves in a down-at-heel flat which is the only accommodation available in Festival Edinburgh. When Jaya, out walking alone, witnesses the only fall which a Being survives, she knows she must think fast to hide and thus protect her from the thousands of unscrupulous people who seek to exploit the creatures for money or as specimens for use in medical research.

She enlists the support of Allie and Calum, sister and brother who she sees

protesting against

the exploitation of the Beings and they find a safe refuge in a disused University


named because become the

where staple of Tunnocks

Teacake-so rapidly

her sweet-

toothed diet-can exercise her wings, one of which has been damaged and which they are determined to repair. So far, so whimsical. However, this tender, tense and thought-provoking novel is far more than a foray into

lover Leah has

fairy stories. Instead it explores the nature of extremism-for example, a cult calling themselves The Standing Fallen denounce the evils of Man and cite the Beings as harbingers of God’s wrath-of prejudice and of greed. Cameron examines the nature

of grief, too – Jaya’s guilt that her mother died as a result of a freak accident whist walking with her, Cameron’s that he is healthy but his beloved sister suffers from cystic fibrosis, Jaya’s father because he neglected his daughters when they needed him most, thinking that he could get answers about the afterlife and his dead wife from the mysterious Beings which are falling from the sky. The skilful

creation of characters

is another strength of this gem of a book. The readers’ sympathies are engaged with Teacake from the beginning-all the more remarkably because she speaks only her own, musical, lyrical language. Cameron gives her an uncanny ability to mimic all she hears on the radio and this- amusing and innocent-is combined with her intuition into the feelings of those around her. This is a must-read novel – it reminds us of our

strengths and

failings and demonstrates that help for even the most unsettling of life- events is never very far away. VR

Scythe HHHH

Neal Schusterman, Walker Books, 443pp, 978-1-4063-7924-2, £7.99 pbk

In a world where death has been defeated and people can be brought back from the dead, as well as being able to reverse the ageing process, there has to be a way to control the population.

Whilst most of life is

controlled by a super computer, the process of deciding who will die (on a permanent basis) has been given to a group called the Scythes. When Citra and Rowan are chosen as apprentices they have no idea what changes this will bring to their lives. Their teacher, Scythe Faraday, is a strict but fair master and upholds the strong moral code that the Scythes are meant to follow.

However there is a growing

group of Scythes who actually find enjoyment in killing people. After their teacher mysteriously dies Citra is taken on by a famous Scythe, while Rowan finds himself part of one of the new and very radical groups. They are faced with the prospect of one killing the other when they have finished their training and one has been chosen as a new Scythe, so how will they cope with this dilemma? This is a superb story which can

be read at several different levels; in fact it was a Printz Honor book in the USA. It can be seen as a straightforward Science Fiction novel set in a dystopian world and where the characters learn to cope with the world in which they find themselves. At a deeper level this is a tale that

30 Books for Keeps No.229 March 2018

asks many moral and philosophical questions about a future world and our ability to maintain empathy and humanity; “Power

as the corrupts,

quotation absolute

says power

corrupts absolutely.” We are given two very different versions of what the role should be for a Scythe and the contrast seems very stark, yet there is a feeling that the dividing line would be only too easy to cross. This is one of those stories that linger in the mind and keep you thinking about the themes that it covers. The second book in this sequence will be published in the late spring and I am really looking forward to reading it. Definitely a great story for those fans of dystopian tales. MP

The Smoke Thieves HHHH

Sally Green, Penguin, 469pp, 978141375397, £7.99 pbk

In a world where ‘Demon Smoke’ is a forbidden, but highly prized product, the destinies of five very different young people will be brought together. The Smoke is actually the dying breathe of a demon and it is used as a drug by the wealthy of the surrounding states, but why would the king of the Brigant kingdom kill to get his hands on it? That is the overarching question that will bring the five together; a thief, a princess, a soldier, a hunter and a traitor, most of whom have no connection to each other. This is a fantasy world, somewhat medieval in feel and with no modern technology to help the heroes. They will have to bond together in order to achieve the aim of saving their countries and themselves. This world is very much in the

tradition of fantasy fiction; where there is a quest undertaken by a group of people who are gradually drawn together to serve a common purpose. The main protagonists come from a wide range of backgrounds and their characters vary from aggressive and sly to strong and challenging. This story acts as the start of the quest and it really sets the scene by introducing the characters and what is going on the countries that they are living in. The author has cleverly woven their stories together, gradually introducing us to the common thread which is central to the whole plot. The underlying themes are about power, with strong elements

intrigue, but also relationships and the importance of friendship.

of political There

is a mix of male and female main characters and they don’t always meet the standard gender stereotype, so it is great to see strong female characters that are central to the quest.


From the perspective of a or

librarian this book of is

suited to the 14+ age group; there is no overt sexual content but there is swearing and some quite bloodthirsty descriptions

particularly those who

are fans of series such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. MP

torture and death.

However as with all fiction I am sure that it will be read by a younger audience,

Twelve Nights HH

Andrew Zurcher, Penguin, 448pp, 978-0-1413-8554-9, £12.99 hbk

This is an ambitious book, both in size – 450 pages – and concept. It begins promisingly as Kay’s dad disappears and his workplace denies that he has ever existed. Then Kay and her sister Eloise are kidnapped by Will and Flip, two insubstantial beings who identify themselves as wraiths. Will and Flip are collecting all of Kay’s dad’s possessions, even down to his extracted wisdom tooth which Kay has as a keepsake. In what follows we learn that Kay’s dad has been captured on the orders of an upstart wraith called Ghast as part of his plan to gain absolute control of Bithynia, a parallel world to our own whose guiding principles appear to be those of story making. More than this – the next 300 or so pages - I would be reluctant to say, because I am not clear about it. This may very well be a failure on my part, but it leads me to believe it’s going to be a challenge for even a teenage reader who is keen on fantasy. The problem seems to be that Zurcher has put so much effort into the weaving of his created world

around the complementary

and antagonistic warp and weft of storying - plotting and imagination – that his own story in the foreground is frequently

bogged down in

exegesis and digression and fogged in mystery. Much of the novel takes place underground and its unravelling is so drawn out that I too felt as if I was groping my way in the dark. In a novel that is above all concerned with storytelling, it is unfortunate that its own narrative is so obscure. Fragments of the stories of Penelope and Ariadne are told within the story. This is possibly partly to make a point about tales that are usually told from the point of Odysseus and Theseus. But, to my mind, in their clarity of character, motivation and action, these ancient stories provide a telling comparison to the surrounding tale in which they are mere threads. Perhaps for an adult with the same interest as the author in how a story works as both organism and mechanism, Twelve Nights would be an engrossing read. I am not convinced it’s a novel for children. CB

The Cruel Prince HHHH

Holly Black, Hot Key, 978-1-4714-0645-4, 370pp, £12.99 hbk

When their parents are killed by the Faerie Lord, Madoc, Jude and her twin sister Taryn are taken to live in the world of Faerie. It is a dangerous world and as mortals they are a target for Faerie spite. Jude is determined that she will not succumb. Though a mortal she is fascinated by this world. She is determined that she will not fall under its spell and become anything other than herself. But the Faerie Court is a dangerous place full of

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