Books from two different end of the time spectrum this time; first of all the trilogy of stories by Jenny Nimmo – The Snow Spider, Emlyn’s Moon and The Chestnut Soldier. Published (I believe) in the early 90s, the stories follow the development of Gwyn, a young boy living in a remote welsh valley, his friend Nia and his cousin Emlyn. His grandmother gifts him several objects for his ninth birthday which will reveal whether or not he is a wizard, a true descendant of Gwydion. The premise is pure fantasy but the tales are excellently told and contain so much more than simple fairy story fodder. They aren’t as dark as Alan Garner’s The Owl Service and nowhere near as extensive as C S Lewis’s books but they are compelling. Again, I suppose they show their age a little which brings me to the two new books.
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer is an excellent read, a riveting modern day story set on and around Exmoor. Its subject matter is edgy and handled well but the language in it was strong. I’m not naïve, I do know that children swear like troopers from an early age, but I did wonder if the profanity was quite necessary. The cover recommendation is by Val McDermid so the excellence of the story was pretty much guaranteed but, bearing in mind the content of most of Ms McDermid’s books I’m not entirely sure I’d want a pre-teen of mine reading it. The book seemed to fall somewhere in between young adult and mainstream fiction; a little too strong for one, a little too simple for the other but I did enjoy it and was interested to note that it had been achieved because of a grant from Academi; nice one!
The other book is White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. This one has far more fantasy elements to it but again has a riveting storyline. Time changes are a little confusing and quite hard to do, especially when juggling three different characters, but other than that it’s a good tale. I’ve read a few of Marcus Sedgwick’s books and enjoyed all of them, certainly they aren’t for the very young but I would have no problem giving a copy of any of them to a child of 9 or 10 years and up. What I do find interesting about so-called young adult novels is how gripping they are compared to mainstream fiction; sometimes despairing of anything which doesn’t have a pair of high heels or amusingly wonky lettering on the cover, I frequently skulk across to the children’s section of the library and pick out a selection of the latest titles. I would love to try writing one myself at a later date but suspect they are something of an acquired art form; like a longer short story or truncated novel. I would actually consider it quite a coup if I ever managed to write one.