Reviews of three new fiction titles for teens

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Reviews of three new fiction titles for teens


Fiction Files  - Reviews by Anne Rogers 

Island Treasure by Helen Parker

12-year-old Chris Miller has just got settled into his secondary school in Edinburgh when his mum takes a new job ‒ on the remote Scottish island of Sunnaig. Painfully aware of leaving his friends (especially best friend Ruth), his church youth group and his swimming club behind, even rumours of buried treasure don’t help him feel better about the move.

But as Chris begins to find himself enjoying his new life, finding new friends and even a new group to swim with, his mother’s job managing a hotel’s refurbishment is hitting a series of setbacks. Then local boy Jacko seems set on making trouble for both Chris and his new Syrian refugee friends Nabila and Mouneer, and two of them end up in a life-threatening situation.

The title of this book perfectly reflects the thread throughout of where and what is your treasure. Here we find treasures of all kinds: family, friendship, faith, forgiveness, as well as what might be the more literal expectation of buried treasure, although even that is not quite what you may think. A nice twist!

This is an excellent story for pre and young teens. The story is told from Chris’ point of view and his perspective is very real, as is his relationship with his blended family. He, his older brother Stuart and his mum are white, his step-dad Sam ‘Daddo’ is of Caribbean origin and his younger sister Toria is mixed race. This makes for some interesting observations.

An entertaining, briskly paced novel with lots of well integrated faith elements and plenty of ‘current issue related’ elements to ponder.

The Marble Curse by Richard Vincent

A mysterious parcel. A plea for help. A vicious threat.

Joe Raven is a young inventor with an arsenal of clever gadgets to his name. His sister, Beth, is passionate about performing arts. On the day they’re about to go on a trip to a local country house – something Joe is not at all inspired by ‒ they find a box in their garden. Inside the box are a mysterious and beautiful silver bird, a guide and a letter asking for help. From 200 years ago!

Beth immediately realises that the silver bird is much more than merely a beautiful model, and she and Joe find their visit to Boar Hall becomes a quest to find a cure to right a terrible curse. When a grandfather clock at Boar Hall chimes, the pair find themselves transported back to 1789! Will they be able to solve the puzzle and save the people? Will it be Joe’s faith in gadgets or Beth’s faith in something bigger than them all which will help them?

This is what used to be called a rattling good read. It’s set in a fantastic dystopian version of England and Joe’s gadgets are fun and fascinating. But it is the silver bird Thyriopolis who is the most significant key to showing the way, even though Joe can’t see him the way Beth does. Thyriopolis is beautifully described, and for the Christian reader there are plenty of allegorical references to be found. Throughout their quest each child must use their individual gifts and skills to advantage to help solve the challenge. There are clues in the storytelling, and plenty of danger and adventures for the children before the satisfying ending.

A good and unusual novel and a great read for anyone from eight upwards, this is a book which works for both boys and girls.

The Dark Star by H. R. Hess

The country of Callenlas is on the brink of war with neighbouring tSardia. In Callenlas’ allied realm of Feldemoore, discontented Princess Runa is far more interested in dragons and their riders than dresses and studies. In tSardia, Zaphreth is desperate to escape his life of poverty, and perhaps his gift of Mind Powers will help him to do it. When Runa runs away, and Zaphreth finds himself on a secret mission for a powerful foe, their paths will cross on the way to meeting the great Star King, King Elior.

I used to read a lot of fantasy fiction, and this book has reminded me of why. Once past the first few pages which I found a little slow, it is an engrossing read of the kind that makes you want to put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and hide away in a comfy reading nook to sink into it. Author H. R. Hess has a gift of writing immersive settings and aiming them at a perfect level for the target audience of 9+.

In this book, Runa finds out that ‘good and evil were not always so easily distinguishable as in books and stories’. Zaphreth discovers that what he’s been told isn’t necessarily the truth, that choices have consequences, and that danger often comes from within, at least as much as from without. The story is peppered with Bible truths, and I especially loved the scene where Zaphreth is touched by the King. But overall, it’s simply a wonderful story. I’m very happy to see that there is already a second book in the series.

Together Magazine

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Island Treasure (Paperback)
Helen Parker
Retail price: £8.99
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The Dark Star (Paperback)
H. R. Hess
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The Marble Curse (Paperback)
Richard Vincent
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