Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review of THE EYE OF THE NORTH by Sinéad O' Hart

When Emmeline’s parents (zoologists who specialise in unusual creatures) are kidnapped, she is put on a ship, bound for a safe-house in Paris. On board, she meets a boy called Thing (a scruffy stowaway orphan); and an unlikely friendship forms between them. But the criminals who kidnapped Emmeline’s parents soon catch up with her and whisk her off to the frozen north to be used as bargaining chip by the deranged Dr. Bauer who wants Emmeline’s parents to awaken a mysterious creature, asleep beneath the ice.

Determined to save his friend, Thing seeks help from a secret organisation called the The Order of the White Flower. Together, they set off on Emmeline’s trail, but when they are attacked, Thing must continue the journey alone.

What follows is a white-knuckled race towards a glacier in Greenland, with the perspective constantly shifting between Emmeline and Thing. Along the way, they meet many weird and wonderful characters, including magical creatures, some friendly and some not. The plot is perfectly paced, building in momentum with every turn of the page until the reader is hurtled into an edge-of-the-seat climax.

The absence of modern paraphernalia gives O’ Hart’s steampunk world a classic and timeless feel. The scope of her imagination and inventiveness is breath-taking, as indeed is the writing. I loved the character of Emmeline – a bookish, brave but nervous, particular (with a touch of OCD!) girl; or in the words of Dr. Bauer – ‘a singular little creature.’ The more rough-around-the-edges Thing is an ideal foil to her – he’s spontaneous, upbeat and funny, with a dark backstory.

This book is pure middle-grade gold, pitched perfectly in tone at its audience. It is sure to be lapped up by boys and girls alike. This impressive debut is my first 5 star read of 2017. I hope it’s a huge hit. It certainly deserves to be!

Now, in the words of Thing himself: ‘Let the adventurin’ begin’.

Click here for an interview with the author.

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