Would you snap-shut your trap and listen – I can hear something.’
‘I hear nothing. Imagining things, so you are.’
‘Not. Tell the lads to be ready. They’re close now.’
‘The lads are ready enough – we all are. Ready to die for the Cause!’
‘Not gonna die.’
‘Don’t be frighted now, sister dearest.’
‘Dying in battle isn’t a thing to be worried about. Remember – it’s how Da and Granda went.’
‘I know that. Can’t forget, can I?’
Published by Hot Key Books in 2014
416 pages in paperback
Cover by Manuel Šumberac
Summary form publisher’s website
The Divided Isle, once a place of peace and tranquillity, has been ravaged by war. Twins Oona and Morris live with their grandmother in a stone cottage in the quiet southern county of Drumbroken, but the threat of the Invaders of the Black North - the ravaged northern part of the island - is coming ever closer. When Morris, fighting against the Invaders, is kidnapped by one of the evil Briar Witches, Oona must journey to the unknown realms of the Black North in search of her brother. She is accompanied only by Merrigutt, a jackdaw with mysterious transformative powers, and a treasured secret possession: a small stone in the shape of a plum, but a stone that reveals truths and nightmares, and which the Invaders and their ruler, the King of the North, seek more than anything. Oona must keep the stone safe at all costs, and find her brother, before the King of the North extends his evil hold over the whole island and destroys it forever.
This is only Nigel’s second book – and it’s a cracker. To be fair, it has a distinctive voice which not everyone will relish, but those who do will absolutely love it.
If you would enjoy a re-working of Irish myth and legend with a moving family story at the heart of it, then this is for you. Add a much larger drama with some frightening elements of dark magic and you’ve definitely got my sort of book, oh, and don’t forget the beautiful writing.
It’s an adventure story with a brave girl at the centre of it, and some very scary enemies. A kind of Northern Irish Guillermo del Toro imagination animates this strange world. It’s easy to enjoy the weirdness and pace of the story – but there are deeper ideas beneath the fascinating surface. For me, it left a distinct and satisfying imprint after the end.
I would highly recommend this for any fans of fantasy who are competent readers and not too easily scared. Adults will get more out of it than perhaps they might expect. If you delight in Kate Thompson or Michael Scott for example, this might well suit you.