What do you get when you bring together a future classic character floating down a river in a flimsy boat, a teenager with a secret during the English Civil War, a handful of fascinating characters made out of tin, a young boy in classical Japan searching for his destiny and a girl who lives in a house with chicken legs? The answer: Young Post’s favourite reads of 2018.
In The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
After a long, long wait, Philip Pullman gave fans an ”equal” – not a “prequel” – to his classic trilogy, His Dark Materials. And there were shouts of approval around the world. In The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, Pullman delivers a thrilling original story for his wonderful heroine, Lyra Belacqua. This new novel tells the saga of young Malcolm Polstead’s dangerous river journey as he takes baby Lyra to safety away from kidnappers, nefarious government agents, spies and murderous traitors. It’s all thrilling stuff with Pullman at the height of his powers.
A Skinful of Shadows
Frances Hardinge is a writer who doesn’t go in for sequels or repetitions. Her latest, A Skinful of Shadows (released in 2017), is a mystery set during the English Civil War (1642-1651) a series of bitter conflicts when the English parliament tried to get rid of the county’s monarchy. After her mother is killed, Makepeace Lightfoot is claimed by the rich Fellmotte family who drags her off to live in their ancestral home, Grizehayes. The poor girl’s future becomes very black indeed.
This is a gripping mystery, ghost story, coming-of-age tale and supernatural intrigue all rolled into one. There aren’t many modern writers who can craft edgy novels like this, but Hardinge has a special talent for blending new ideas and language.
Padraig Kenny creates a wonderfully imagined new world in his debut novel, Tin. It’s set in an alternative England in the 1930s: the country is kept running by “mechanicals”, robot helpers who work alongside humans performing daily tasks and factory work. The plot focuses on a group of child “mechanicals” and a human boy who get caught up in an evil power struggle.
Kenny excels in his creation of the child robots, giving them strong personalities, yet making them innocent and kind; we care about them completely. Tin’s glorious characters and the twists and turns of the plot will have adults as well as teens sitting on the edge of their seats.
Ryo lives in a remote village in ancient Japan. His father is a local and well-respected potter, and Ryo knows that his destiny is to follow in his father’s footsteps. Tony Mitton’s Potter’s Boy is an adventure of self-discovery taken by a young boy searching for his place in the world.
When Ryo questions his future, he sets off on a journey intending to seek out training as a warrior. Mitton is a poet, and his lyrical, crystal-clear writing matches the subject matter of the story he is telling to perfection. Potter’s Boy is an elegant, exciting and spiritual read.
The House with Chicken Legs
Sophie Anderson’s The House with Chicken Legs is an imaginative retelling of the Baba Yaga myth from Slavic folklore. There are many stories about Baba Yaga in East European fairytales, and the character has many forms. She can be a cruel witch, a benevolent old nanny or the ancient goddess of death.
In Anderson’s YA novel, the Baba Yaga takes on another dimension: she is a teenage girl’s grandmother. Marinka, her granddaughter, is supposed to continue the myth of the Baba Yaga, but wants nothing to do with the tradition. Add to this a house with chicken legs that has its own opinions about how Marinka’s destiny should unfold, and you have an addictive page-turner.
We read so many wonderful books in 2018, and it was refreshing to see so many releases that were utterly original, and not just the next in a series, or yet another tired dystopian love triangle. It was tough to narrow them down, but our five top reads exemplify what a novel should do: excite, intrigue and entertain the reader. Here’s to plenty more of that in 2019!