reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued for them and others in Benchill. GF

Queen of Coin and Whispers HHHH

Helen Corcoran, O’Brien, 447pp, 9781788491181, £11.99 pbk

The king is dead. Long live the queen. Seventeen-year

old Lia is

checking the sheep flocks when the news comes. She is queen. Young, idealistic, she sets about trying to redress all the wrongs that had been perpetrated by her Uncle. At the same time she wants desperately to discover the truth behind the death of her father. This is also the aim of Xania – also convinced her father has been murdered. The queen needs a protector – a spymaster willing to kill; Xania needs access to the court. Will the friendship that develops survive the pressures of trying to do right when the only answer is unpleasant compromise? Romantic,

intense, this is very

much the 21st century fantasy where rather than quests taking a hero into strange lands to face monsters and others, we are immersed in the politics and relationships make up court

that life; claustrophobic, dangerous and full of secrets upon

secrets. However, the aim is the same – to grow up, to find love – and here we have two girls navigating this perilous landscape, making mistakes, full of ideals, learning that achieving ideals may require difficult choices, that relationships are always complicated. Corcoran is an assured writer. Her style is contemporary and direct; background information is introduced subtly – no long digressions. Both Lia and Xania speak in their own voices – they are recognisably distinct in style. This dual narrative then allows different perspectives and access to separate chronologies which brings a depth and interest to the plot which in itself conforms to the pattern set by this genre. An enjoyable addition to any Fantasy section and an author to watch. FH

The Pure Heart HH

Trudi Tweedie, Chicken House, 272pp., 9781912626007, £7.99. pbk

About to be married to the Chieftain’s son, Artair, Iseabail is sent to be the companion to a rich man’s daughter, after the arrival of a man in a boat to her home on St. Kilda. He promised a winter’s worth of supplies for her

going, and she was told that she would be married on her return if that was within a year. After a journey with a mysterious man and a monkey in a small boat, and a long cart ride, she arrives at the house which is to be her home. This is a house where people bathe a lot, unusual at that time, and where the local water is thought to have healing properties.

feel. The setting is the borderlands of Scotland but there is little sense of place, and no menace within the house, which is almost a world of its own as the locals will not approach it.

Scottish island, seems to have a wide knowledge of the world.

Maria, her

charge, is a feisty seven-year old, seeming unwell and very spoiled. When her father arrives the plot slowly reveals he is searching for a cure for the plague which killed his wife, but the reason for Iseabail’s presence there is unclear. He has brought a unicorn with him and retreats


the tower where he undertakes his experiments.


builds to its horrific climax. Set in the latter

the half of

story the

sixteenth century, this is a story in the Frankenstein tradition. The first thing that strikes the reader is the unusual use of language, for example on page 2 ‘the stranger, dressed in a pale flotilla of clothes’, and ‘a barren glut of rocks’. On page 70 ‘peacocks which stood out drastically against the snow’.

Later, on page 206,

‘snuck’ is used and also the priest says ‘Jesus wept’: not a phrase a priest would ever use.

The story is

set in the latter half of the sixteenth century but there is a lack of period

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Iseabail, although from a remote Her father

had taught her to read and write, which is one of the reasons she was chosen for this mission, but surely not been able to give her such learning? The reader also has to question why her family and tribe let her go so easily to a complete stranger arriving from over the sea? This is basically a horror story and

the ending is truly nasty, but for this reader there were too many questions raised along the way. These, combined with the strange use of language, and the lack of historical feel and sense of menace in the place, the latter being crucial for a story in this genre, made for an unsatisfactory read. JF @OpenUni_RfP Books for Keeps No.241 March 2020 31

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