The Consequence Girl
The only writing of Alastair Chisholm I’m familiar with is the super Dragon Storm series for younger readers on account of which, I came to this novel for older readers with high expectations; I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It’s a brilliant fantasy adventure that starts with a prologue introducing Lilith, a mercenary on a mission to rescue a stolen child. With nothing to lose since her soulmate was killed in battle, she’ll stop at nothing to get baby Cora back.
Forward thirteen years, Lilith now goes under the name Seleen. She lives in an isolated mountainside cabin having brought up Cora out of the sight of civilisation. What are they hiding from? Life is hard and there’s often the need to forage for food to add to that Seleen gets from Recon, the nearest settlement.
Cora possesses a gift she’s forbidden to use by Seleen: if she concentrates really hard she can alter outcomes.
One day though Seleen goes alone to Recon, instructing Cora not to let herself be seen; but she hears a cry for help seemingly close by. Disobeying orders Cora comes upon an injured boy, Kai. Why he’s there she knows not. However after running away at first, she resolves to help him, little realising that it’s a life-changing decision. Later as he recuperates in the cabin, Kai tells Cora things about the world that come as a huge surprise. He also tricks Cora into revealing her secret power to him.
As the story continues to unfold we watch Cora develop her powers as she discovers herself, why she was brought up in isolation, and considers the importance of friendship with someone her own age. She also learns about the township system, the powerful people from whom she has been kept hidden and much more. With his observations on power and prejudice that are so relevant to Britain in 2022, the author’s portrayal of government, church, the resistance movement and the use of technology are spot on.
Showing the importance of the choices we make and their consequences, this is a gripping read from beginning to end.
The Secrets of Cricket Karlsson
Kristina Sigunsdotter (translated by Julia Marshall), illustrated by Ester Eriksson
At the start of this delightfully quirky novel Cricket Karlsson rates her life as pretty good – chickenpox notwithstanding. However after her one hundred and three chicken pox spots, on her return to school a fortnight later, Cricket downgrades her life to a catastrophe for she discovers that her best friend Noa is totally ignoring her, and is now hanging out with the cliquey ‘horse girls’. To make matters even worse, not long after, her much loved Aunt Frannie (an artist as Cricket aspires to be too) has lost her zest for life and is institutionalised in Adult Psychiatric Ward 84.
This means Cricket now has much to cope with and her way of so doing includes hiding in the school bathroom,
taking every opportunity to pay secret visits to her aunt, spending sleepless nights – the wolf hour, as her Aunt calls this – outside, standing on a bridge tossing jelly-filled water balloons or even cucumbers over the rail. In addition she has to adjust to having only one person at school who wants to have anything to do with her and that’s the extremely boring sweaty boy, Mitten who has decided he’s in love with her.
The narrator tells it exactly like it is from her life currently in turmoil viewpoint, and includes some revealing lists, for instance ‘Secrets I have told only Noa’, one being “ I sometimes shove a sock in my pants and pretend I’m a boy’; and among ‘Presents I’ve had from Mitten’ – ‘Oven mitts he made in sewing’.
Adding to the impact of the writing are Ester Eriksson’s slightly wacky black and white illustrations giving the entire book a journal-like feeling. I love a quirky book and along with the pre-teen uneasiness, this shortish one, expertly translated by Julia Marshall, has quirkiness in abundance.