Sarah Silverwood

Nowhere Chronicles, Book 1

Gollancz

ISBN: 978-0-575-095-3

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The Double-Edged Sword is that amazing thing – a novel that I finished without having had one single critical thought about it. This is a really impressive young adult book that deserves a wide adult audience – and may well get it through word of mouth. I closed the novel wanting the next one in the series so that I can see if my suspicions about Finmere’s origins will be proved right.

Finmere Tingewick Smith is celebrating his sixteenth birthday. That’s if you can call it celebrating; Fin was left on the steps of the Old Bailey, in a box, sixteen years ago. So it’s not really his birthday, it’s the day he was found. And he doesn’t have any family, just a collection of old men who’ve decided to look after him for some strange reason. They’ve made his life so weird that he lies to his friends about everything, including his birthday. So his celebration is to wait on the steps at the Old Bailey, share a cupcake with the night watchman who found and named him, and then go to an old people’s home and shave a bunch of comatose old men.

But this birthday, his lives will collide. The old men have made Fin spend alternate years at two very different schools – never telling his school friends where he is on the alternate years. He lives in a boarding house when he attends the day school, and the landlady keeps a benignly neglectful eye on him. Fin is getting old enough to be tired of the lies, and to start questioning the purpose of this erratic life. His guardian, Judge Harlequin Brown, acknowledges that he’s old enough now for some of those answers. Unfortunately, the Judge is murdered before he can say anything helpful to Fin – but answers start to avalanche out of two worlds as a result of that murder.

There are doorways between worlds, and Fin appears to belong in two of them. More importantly, right now he might be the only one who can guarantee a future for any of them. The Storyholder is responsible for the Five Eternal Stories which hold the worlds together; but she’s been kidnapped and imprisoned by rebellious Knights of Nowhere, whose leader wants the stories and the power for himself. The resulting black storm could destroy all the worlds – unless Fin can save the day.

This was a very well plotted book. Plenty of action mixed with thoughtfulness, everything well worked out and fitting together and feeling very right as connections are made. There are some loose ends (it is book one of a series) but there’s also enough resolution to bring this volume to a satisfying end. I enjoyed the fact that some of the solutions to dilemmas that confronted the boys were quite complex, and some quite straightforward – that felt very realistic. It also meant that it seemed credible that some teenagers, essentially pulled off the streets, could actually pull off some of the things they do.

A big strength was the characterisations. Fin and his friends are sixteen (which is probably the main factor in this being categorized as young adult), but they’re not childish teenagers. At the same time, they’re not quite fully adult, and this enables them to fling themselves into the adventure with both enthusiasm and an awareness that the consequences might not be all good.

Although Fin and his friends Christopher and Joe were central, each of the other characters were equally well realised. The Knights were a fabulous creation; males will want to be the heroic Knights, and females will want to flirt withthem. Every character, whether an elderly landlady (well, elderly to Fin’s eye), the defiant storyholder, or an emotionally stand-offish father, will leap off the page and strike a chord with readers.

I recommend this novel very highly. The characterisations will make you long to meet these people; the plot will drag you in and leave you eager to know what happens next; the writing will keep you turning the pages even when you should really put the book down; and the world will fascinate you. It should appeal to a very wide variety of readers, both young and old.

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