Genre: Fantasy (Sci-fi) Age Range: MG Star Rating: 5 stars Series: Yes - first book
A year after the death of her older brother, Prue Haywood’s family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm.
A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life.
Prue knows that the “Ghost Guild” might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger’s offer to join as an apprentice. But to find her brother, she needs to find a way to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be.
Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I picked this book up in the evening and didn’t put it down until I was done, so sucked into the world by the writing. It’s not a chuckle-fest story, but rather an emotional rollercoaster of a journey with three friends as they start their apprenticeships. After reading so many light-hearted MG recently, it was a nice change of style.
Prue, Agapantha and Edwin strike up a close friendship quickly, without any strings attached. They all influence one another in their respective emotional journeys – bravery and trust rubbing off on one another. It’s told through the wide eyes of new-to-town Prue (with two scenes from Agapantha during the finale when she’s in a different location). Prue’s wonder, and also ability to see that which the richer townfolk turn their nose up at, bring out the sheer visual delight of the world.
This is a book that could be classed either way as sci-fi or fantasy, because it’s a mechanical world. Automated farm workers, trains and – of course – the mechanical bodies for the ghosts to inhabit. It’s not steampunk, as there’s no indication that anything runs on steam power, but the world feels quasi-Victorian – just with better-exploited technology to make it more marvellous. This combined with the central idea of bringing ghosts into new bodies felt every so slightly more fantasy than sci-fi, but really it straddles the boundaries.
The ghosts don’t feel like your typical ghost with their white light and eerie noises. Instead, once they’re in their new bodies (such lifelike animal forms that you can’t tell them apart), they have no memory of their former lives and are human-like.
Their rights is a powerful theme running throughout, steadily built up as Prue becomes friends with a personifae (or “second-lifers”) and sees the imperfection of the system. I loved how the book tackled what it meant to be human, as well as the rights we deny “aliens”. Seeing it in a fantastical setting really made the fact that this is a reality all the more jarring.
Read my reviews of other books by Vashti Hardy:
- HARLEY HITCH AND THE IRON FOREST (#1)
- HARLEY HITCH AND THE MISSING MOON (#2)
- HARLEY HITCH AND THE FOSSIL MYSTERY (#3)
Griffin Gate (Barrington Stoke):
- THE GRIFFIN GATE and THE PUFFIN PORTAL (#1 and #2)