My book of the week this Sunday is a chilling, transporting fantasy of inherited power, its duties, responsibilities, and its fearsome Cost – an impressive and accomplished debut by Irish author Dave Rudden.
Denizen Hardwick has grown up in Crosscaper, a draughty, bleak orphanage on the coast, close only to his best friend, Simon. As his thirteenth birthday draws near, however, a mysterious visitor called Grey invites him on a drive, telling Denizen an unknown aunt wants to meet him. But en route to her home, a terrible creature attacks them, and Grey uses an unearthly power – a sung, scorching light – to put paid to it.
When Denizen arrives at Seraphim Row, he learns more about the shadow-creatures called the Tenebrous, and about the Knights of the Borrowed Dark, who fight them, his aunt among them. But every time a Knight wields the power of the Cants, they must pay the heavy, irreversible Cost of doing so. And now the Tenebrous are rising, enraged by a theft they blame on the Knights. How can Denizen help, when his aunt seems determined never to talk to him? Who are the terrifying Clockwork Three? What has been stolen from the Endless King - and how can it be retrieved and returned?
The classic themes and tropes of this fast-moving fantasy – apparently Manichean darkness versus light, inherited powers wielded only at great cost, an orphaned childhood and a secret organisation offering new family, identity, hope – are forged fire-new by Rudden’s white-hot, precisely compelling prose. Descriptions of place, person, sung sun, shadow-monster, fearsome footstep, clockwork breath are all conveyed in an elegant minimum of words, leaving the reader at once longing and terrified to explore further, much like Denizen himself. Look out for this one, and for those to follow in the series.