Furthermoor - Darren Simpson
Updated: Jan 30
The real world is a hostile place for twelve-year-old Bren, his schooldays stalked by vicious bully, Shaun, and his family life fractured at home. Ever since his sister Evie died in an accident, Bren's only safe space is Furthermoor, an imagined world of mechanised trees and clockwork animals, where Evie is still alive. In Furthermoor, no one can hurt Bren...until the mysterious Featherly arrives.
Now Bren is forced to confront his deepest fears and decide if his place in the real world is worth fighting for.
Enter a world as vast and dark as your imagination, in this unforgettable coming-of-age story about courage, friendship and finding your voice.
What a book! Covering a plethora of themes and packed with action in both of the worlds it's set in, this had me gripped from start to finish, desperate to see what would happen to Bren and how he would escape the clutches of Featherly - one of the most sinister baddies I've encountered in many a book recently. Sneaky, sly, evil - he really does pervade the events with a sense of absolute evil - an amazing (but very scary) creation - don't let the somewhat misleading 'soft'-sounding name fool you!
The cover gives a hint of what to come here - the dual-world setting of the story where Bren escapes the difficulties of life to meet with his sister, and forget about the painful events occurring at school at home in the peace and safety of Furthermoor. The malevolent character of Featherly, however, threatens this existence and spills over in reality as the two worlds collide and Bren is forced to stand up to all the difficulties in order for him and his family to survive. In real life, bullies make Bren's life a misery - indeed almost costing him it at one stage - and his home life and happiness is severely impacted by the effects of his sister's death on his own and his parents' wellbeing. All this combined leads to Bren being in a spiral of difficulties where everything that could go wrong seems to come at once - Darren Simpson is a master at creating this sense of impending doom and drama, and there were parts of the book where I really felt the heavy despair of Bren's feeling weighing heavy on my shoulders in empathy with him.
There are serious issues addressed in this book - very sensitively and brilliantly managed and plotted - but as such I would use it with care in a school setting as there may be lots of triggers for readers: bereavement and grief, bullying, friendships etc are all played out in dramatic fashion as the plot unfolds and wee see the situations Bren deals with escalating to terrifying confrontations.
A truly gripping and action-packed page-turner of a book that will have you on the edge of your seat (or peeking out from under the covers!)
Read the exciting start for yourself here in an exclusive extract as part of the blogtour for this brilliant book:
Part One - Wednesday
Chapter One – Fifty-Nine Bradbury Avenue
When the truth hit Bren, it was as cold and hard as the frost on the window: if he didn’t get out of here, he’d die.
It was plain fact. A message to the gut, sent from Bren’s tingling toes and hands. His fingers stung as if being pricked by pins of ice, so he hugged himself and shoved his hands beneath his armpits, trying to stop the shivering. But the harder he squeezed himself, the more he shook.
He’d left school about an hour ago; there was still some daylight outside. But not for long.
The February sun was sinking. Its pale light oozed through the metal grate covering the window, barely filling this empty, derelict room.
But there was light enough to see. Bren pivoted on the worn carpet, checking for anything he might have missed, anything that might get him out.
There was the stained mattress, propped against the wall. A radiator, with magnolia paint peeling from its metal. The grated window, looking down upon Bradbury Avenue. And Bren’s school backpack, sitting on the floor.
But that was all. There was nothing here that could smash through the window. Nothing to get him through the locked door or even dent its wood.
Bren returned to the window to pound again with his fists – to rap with his knuckles until they bled. He shouted at the glass, crying out for help, though his throat was already raw from yelling.
It was pointless. Even if his voice carried through the double-glazing, no one would hear. No one lived on Bradbury Avenue. It was no man’s land. Every terraced house on it was the same.
Boarded windows and bricked-up doors. Back gardens full of weeds and litter, nettles and junk.
Bren gave up. His fists left prints on the window, blotching its whorls of spiralling ice. Frost glossed the walls too. The dated floral wallpaper – speckled in places by mould – twinkled in the cold, bluish light.
Bren’s woolly gloves were on the floor; he’d taken them off to heave at the door and thump the window. Still shivering, Bren put them back on. He knew the door was jammed, but he tried it again. He rattled and strained at its handle, pulling and pleading as if the door could hear him, then started kicking with his feet. But the door was too thick. It wouldn’t budge from its frame.
Grunting hoarsely, Bren grabbed his backpack, pulled the mattress to the floor and sat down. He could feel the cold dampness seeping through his school trousers. When his stomach rumbled, he checked his backpack for something to eat, knowing as he rummaged that there was nothing to find.
The food his dad had packed for him that morning was gone – he’d eaten it in the music room at lunchtime.
The thought of Dad made Bren’s eyes well up. He’d be worried. Again.
Bren pulled his phone from his duffel coat, looked miserably at its blank screen. He tried turning it on, knowing full well it was dead. There was no way to call anyone. He was trapped.
But then again, maybe not.
Removing a glove again, Bren reached into his trouser pocket and pulled out a watch. The room’s silence amplified its steady ticking. It sounded like a knife on a chopping board, hacking the moments into seconds.
Squinting in the gloom, Bren studied the watch. Its olive-green face – set within a simple golden bezel – matched its green strap. There was a round gap at the face’s centre, which exposed the cogs
working beneath the dial.
Bren watched those golden, ticking hands. Nearly five o’clock.
He curled up on the mattress, put his ear to the watch and closed his eyes.
The ticking went on, lulling him softly. He could feel every tick, every tock, passing through his fingers, travelling up his arms, calming his heart.
And then he heard it. A muffled clacking. He opened his eyes.
A section of carpet tightened, before splitting with a soft tearing sound. It parted to reveal golden cogs spinning underneath. They were arranged in a broad ring, with each cog pulling carpet threads to make the tear even wider.
A circle of wooden flooring lay exposed between the cogs. It opened up, like the sliding shutter of a camera lens.
Bright light and birdsong filled the room.
The birdsong of Furthermoor.
Thanks to Jess and Usborne for having me on the blogtour this week and for the copy of the book for review purposes.
Find out more and order a copy for yourself at: https://usborne.com/gb/furthermoor-9781474976701
Follow Darren at his website: https://darrensimpsonwrites.co.uk/ or on Twitter as @DarrenSimpson44
Review by Rich Simpson (no relation to Darren!) February 2022 as part of the Usborne blogtour for the book. All opinions my own. Follow me as @richreadalot on twitter and Instagram.