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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Review

Knife by R J Anderson
Orchard Books; (Jan 2009); Pages: 320
ISBN13: 9781408303122
Sam North

What an extraordinary tale ‘Knife’ is. Created by R.J Anderson this is a different take on Faeries at the bottom of the garden. We humans are the strange creatures to be afraid of. These faeries that live in an ancient oak tree are the last of their kind. Magic has been forgotten and they live like ancient folk by hunting and gathering.

A dreadful disease is taking them one by one called ‘silence’ and though faeries can live for hundreds of years, time is now short and only rarely is an egg found with a faery in it.

This is Bryony’s world, later to call herself Knife when she manages to bravely steal a steel blade from the human house and become the chief hunter. (Tracking down and killing squirrels for their meat is just one of her many jobs.)

They have quite different rules to us. They never say 'thank you' for example, as this would them in debt to another. These are quite lonely isolated creatures. You feel quite sorry for Knife though she'd kill you for thinking it, she is a very strong character.

One of Knife’s earliest memories is of escaping her guardian and meeting a young human boy Paul in the garden as he climbed their tree and unknown to her – a bond was formed between them and magic born – in the boy not her. He develops skills as an artist and an obsession with faeries. But this is Knife's story and is her we watch grow up and learn to challenge everything around her. We delight in her first flight and first battle with the crows. It is no picnic being so small.

The last time I read about faeries was in ‘Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrel’ – not exactly young fiction at all – but nevertheless a useful primer. Faeries it seems get a bad rap. They aren’t cute, they struggle against all odds to survive, the Queen trying to keep them together with strict rules – one of which is to never leave the tree. Knife is a rebel, hard to contain and it seems her destiny is to meet the boy at the bottom of the garden one day.

Only it turns out he needs her more than she needs him and as she has become an expert skilled hunter and killer of enemy crows she is needed most of all by the clan in the tree.

This is a wonderful opening up of faery world and takes nothing for granted – turning upside down everything you thought you knew about faeries. Well written and compelling, you want Knife to succeed, yet know she is bringing her own kind further into danger. Who has told the truth? The Queen? Or there is another truth in the hidden diaries of one faery who left and returned with child (not an egg, but a real child) and why have they lost their skills of magic? Can it ever be restored? Knife discovers, little by little, that everything she knew was a lie and there is a bigger wider world out there.

Recommended for any kid with a sense of wonder, but also any reader with curiosity
Titled: 'Faery Rebels' in the USA and Canada - Knife (with a much better cover in the UK) is not just for kids, you’ll want to steal it back and never let it go.

© Sam North Jan 2009
Editor of hackwriters

Mean Tide by Sam North
'Extraordinary novel about a child's psychic awakening'

Lulu Press - ISBN: 978-1-4092-0354-4
Sent to live with his spooky Grandma by the river in Greenwich, Oliver (12) discovers a whole world of disturbed people who are probably even crazier than the ones he left behind. When he finds a dog with its throat cut on the beach, everything changes.
Age range 12-16 and all adults
Review: 'An engaging, unusual and completely engrossing read'
- Beverly Birch author of 'Rift'

Buy at Amazon
See Charlie Dickinson review of 'Mean Tide'

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