The Severed Land by Maurice Gee (Penguin)
It’s been a while since Maurice Gee has written for young adults and all I can say is WELCOME BACK! Maurice has written a fantasy-alternative future-adventure type story with a strong female protagonist and great supporting characters and it will have you on the edge of your seat.
The opening scene has the main character Fliss watching soldiers trying to break down the invisible wall. They can see her but their guns and cannons can’t touch her. She watches the unfolding events with amusement until she notices a drummer boy trying to escape. Fliss grabs hold of him through the invisible wall and pulls him to safety. She leaves him to sleep it off and returns home to Shoo and the Old One. The Old One prophecies that the boy is needed to save the wall. The Old One is dying and he needs to find the Nightingale - boy’s sister, who will take over the responsibility of holding up the wall. However, when the boy wakes up, he isn’t grateful and treats Fliss like she is a slave girl. She can’t believe she must tolerate his behaviour in order to carry out the mission. This is where I thought the story very clever. In all good books the character must grow. In this story, the boy’s personality changes throughout the mission from bad to good to bad and back again. It's not that he's not consistent, it's that one part of his personality dominates the other, and he struggles with that; sometimes wavering. I also really liked the girl’s empathy for her companions and her strength of character - it's empowering for young girls/women reading the story.
Fliss, the drummer boy and the Nightingale are unlikely heroes and that's what makes this story so interesting. For young adults who like a good adventure with a dash of fantasy. The story could be a stand-alone but hopefully it will be part of a series and we'll meet Fliss and the Nightingale again. Maurice Gee is back with a gripping novel for young adults. Read an extract here, and see for yourself.
Maurice Gee is considered one of New Zealand's finest writers. He has written more than thirty books for adults and young adults and has won numerous literary awards, including the UK's James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, the Wattie Award, the Deutz Medal for Fiction, the New Zealand Fiction Award and the New Zealand Children's Book of the Year Award. In 2003 he received an inaugural New Zealand Icon Award and in 2004 he received a Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. Maurice Gee's novels include The Plumb Trilogy, Going West, Prowlers, Live Bodies and The Scornful Moon. He has also written a number of much-loved children's novels, including Under the Mountain, The O Trilogy and The Salt Trilogy.
RRP $19.99 Paperback, $9.04 from digital retailers