Can I just say first of all that I love this book?
It scratches that ‘need for a good read’ itch that you get sometimes.
I’m not going to outline the plot (although it’s wide ranging and carries you along with it at a veritable sprint), but because I like a good list, I’m going to list why I like it.
1. The cover is gorgeous. It may seem strange for me to start with the cover but it’s important that people browsing in bookshops will want pick it up. And they will. It’s powdery twilight blue with a frame of black silhouettes hinting at the action within; it has the title writ large in raised bone-like white letters and the blurb actually gives a useful summary of what you can expect. Not so common as you may think.
2. It has motifs and themes that resonate personally with me. Large black birds that seem to be conveying a message. Running for the sheer joy of it, and also running when things turn bad and running is the solution. A helpful librarian. Dogs that look like wolves … or is it the other way round?
3. The characters are rounded. Ash doesn’t always do exactly the right thing, but we understand why. Callie comes across as a strong girl that I’d like to hear more about if there’s a chance of a further book. Ash’s parents are trying their best to cope in stressful times. It feels like a family whose dynamics that are shifting and we’re right there watching them deal with it.
4. Sara has a passion for the land and its occupants and it manifests itself in her writing. The landscape is described in a way that is both poetic and geographic. I felt I could draw a map of the area from the descriptions. I like that.
‘Ash walked through knee-high grass as dry as tinder. Butterflies flopped in the windless air. A pair of buzzards circled lazily high above him. He reached the lane and followed it around the foot of Carrog Ridge to the Monks Bridge and beyond. The he took the route Callie had shown him to the woods where Mark was camped.’ (118)
5. Everything is connected, almost tangled together: the past, the present, myths, legends, traditions, and consequences. The darkness of the old legends is matched by the darkness of the present day troubles of the two families. There’s a balance.
Even though the issues discussed are serious and we are pulled in to the depths of the darkness surrounding Ash, I think readers should be confident that they are in safe hands. To my mind, this is not the stuff of nightmares, but rather a thought provoking request by the author to respect the land and its current problems whilst not underestimating the influence of the traditions of older times.