Orphans of the Tide
Updated: Aug 10
Wow. Just wow. This book!
Anyone who knows my reading preferences knows that asking me what my favourite book is could be a long conversation...
What genre? Adult or children's? Vintage or contemporary? Fiction or non-fiction? What nationality of author?
In short...it changes daily and there are too many great books that mean a lot that I find it difficult to narrow them down to a single choice.
If pressed, though, then Marcus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' is right up there (I had something in my eye at the end, honestly!), and Philip Pullman's Northern Lights series would be right at the top of my 'all-books-included-anytime-by anyone' list, but this one is now hot on their heels!
It actually has many similarities to those two choices though...a strong female lead in a time of danger and unrest, determined to do what is right and harbouring a dangerous secret, having to face down a powerful ruling agency determined to seek out what she's hiding and destroy it.
In this case, though, it's not Lyra and her Alethiometer, or Liesel and Max, but Ellie. An orphan - another commonality- she is trying desperately to save a boy called Seth (who appears from inside a washed-up whale carcass stranded on a rooftop) from being caught and killed as the 'Vessel' of 'The Enemy' by the dark-coated Inquisitors searching for him in the fantasy world of The City, an island 'Ark' perched on a jagged mountain top, left just above sea-level after a terrible event.
It's a classic plot, and to be honest, when I first saw it, I thought it was going to be another in what seems like a welcome recent flood of adventure stories mixing fantasy with journeys and quests (The Polar Bear Explorer's Club, The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, Brightstorm etc.). These are all GREAT books, and have a well-deserved spot on my classroom shelf...great adventures, characters, plots and worlds being explored, but this book (for me, anyway!) just has that something a little bit special about it.
It's being hailed as a future classic (there are at least two more to come according to the publisher's website and the author's Twitter), and I have no doubt it will be read and enjoyed by many for years to come, who will thrill at the rooftop chases; the underground (and underwater) escapes; the shocking revelations; the dark intentions revealed; the history and character backgrounds explained as you read. This book really does have everything I love about an adventure story.
I loved the characters - Ellie, stubborn and determined, with her own demons and secrets; Seth, mysterious and powerful but unsure of his place; Anna, the loyal friend who risks her own safety to help; Hargrath, the unrelenting pursuer with dark secrets in his own past...it's a great cast who you really become involved with as the story races towards its final, inevitable confrontations and resolution.
I loved the slightly Gothic fantasy world of The City - surrounded by a dangerous sea, the jagged rooftops and narrow alleys, marketplaces and crumbling warehouses, the cluttered workshop where Anna makes and maintains her inventions carrying on the legacy of her late mother...it's thoroughly immersive and enveloping and I ran, swam, jumped and hid alongside the characters as they romped their way through the pages. The beautiful map at the beginning, and illustrations throughout by Manuel Sumberac are darkly atmospheric and magical.
I loved this book. It might be that the similarities to my existing favourites were what sold it to me or have secured its place amongst my favourites, but honestly...it deserves a spot on its own merit anyhow (in the category for 'brilliant recent fantasy novels written by a Scottish university lecturer' obviously...)
The author, Struan Murray, is on Twitter (@Struan_Murray), as is illustrator Manuel Sumberac (@manuelsumberac)
Orphans of the Tide is published by Puffin (@PuffinBooks)