This week I’ve read two books from the Branford-Boase Longlist, both of which I enjoyed. I already knew about and intended to read The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, but The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth was new to me.
The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth by Julia Lee
Clemency is utterly penniless and entirely alone, until she's taken in by the marvellous Marvels - a madcap family completely unlike her own. But it's a surprise to them all when she's mysteriously bundled from the house by the frightening Miss Clawe. Concerned about her fate, the Marvels set out to find her. Enlisting the help of some not-quite-genuine Red Indians, it's a calamitous race across the country. But Clemency's misadventures are more dire than her rescuers suspect ...will they reach her in time? A thrilling adventure mystery with skulduggery, magic, and dark family secrets.
I thought this was a really fun, slightly crazy adventure story. It has wonderful characters with suitably descriptive names: The Marvels are marvellous; Miss Clawe is not at all nice. Clemency herself is thrown into a bewildering new life, but quickly comes to realise that she has impressive inner resources. It is a larger than life story that carried me along. I also enjoyed that it was a complete story; there is scope to write more about the various characters but as further adventures. I like standalone books as I have this feeling they encourage more diversity in reading choices. I'm going to offer my copy to my soon-to-be-nine-year-old niece; if she reads it I'll add her comments here.
There's a good review by Annabel Pitcher in the Guardian here, and this one at We Love This Book sums the book up well.
The Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch
Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert. Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all - not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin. Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.
This was a slow burner for me. At first I wasn’t too sure how much I would enjoy it; I got a bit bogged down in the first 50 pages or so, which contain a lot of information about places, customs, names. But then, all of a sudden, I was hooked. The rest of the story – and it’s not short - sped by as I followed Raim on his journey across the desert as an outcast. I thought the structure of the society McCulloch describes is very interesting and intriguing. Raim is on the receiving end of huge amounts of physical and emotional punishment, which makes for an intense read at times. Absolutely loads happens but the central puzzle remains unsolved, making the second book essential reading.
This review at Starburst is well worth reading and you can find Amy McCulloch talking about the book here at Book Zone.
I'd love to know what you think about either of these books.
Next week it's The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale and Celia Bryce's Anthem for Jackson Dawes.