Stag’s Leap. It felt like the edge of the world, nothing beyond it but a fall of rock, depth and fierce winds.
Ash Tyler looked down.
Today the wind was hot, as dry and rough as sandpaper against his skin. It tore back his hair, made his eyes stream. He leaned into it, testing its strength against his own.
There was still a half a metre or so between him and the edge. He inched forward again. The wind slapped his T-shirt around like a sail.
He’d done this before at least a dozen times. Always his best friend Mark’s idea. All the crazy things they’d ever done had been Mark’s idea.
Except this time.
Published by Andersen Press 2014
304 pages in paperback
Cover by Kate Grove and Phil Huntington
Summary from Hardman & Swainson agents
Ash’s dad has just returned from war, close to breakdown, far from the war hero Ash was expecting. Ash is the stag boy in the annual Stag Chase. He’s been waiting to tell his dad he’s following in his footsteps, he’ll make him proud. But Dad is stuck in a world of imaginary threats.
When Ash’s grieving best friend, Mark, pushes him away too, his world suddenly seems lonely and threatening. So Ash retreats to the mountains, to his punishing training runs. But in the mountains dark things are stirring, and the hound boys of old haunt his running steps. Ash glimpses a man made of crows and hears the death cry of a stag boy. Ash starts to wonder how much of the sinister pagan stories about the Stag Chase are true, and what it all has to do with his friend’s anger and grief.
Ash, Mark and Dad must confront death on every side, and find a way to live again.
‘Bone Jack’ is a bold debut novel full of drama and strange folklore. It is both intense and fast-paced – there are a few well-drawn characters and all are deeply involved in the central story. Whilst there are moments of eerie beauty and poetic language, the story runs on much like the Stag Boy pursued by the Hounds. You will not be bored, if strong passions with a touch of the supernatural intrigue you.
The writer, Sara Crowe, has made something with a legendary feel and a sense of place without actually tying it down too specifically. A reader can easily transpose it to their nearest mountain range – which gives the tale a wide appeal. It is quite psychologically unsettling at times, though it is not a horror story, and there is definite peril. It would not suit a very young or sensitive reader – as the spare and attractively sinister cover makes clear.
I would recommend this for readers who thrilled to the supernatural elements of Sandra Greaves The Skull in the Woods. It might well suit some more mature readers
who enjoyed the powerful family drama of Lucy Christopher’s The Killing Woods – also with a father suffering PTSD. Dark and powerful stuff.