Book Review: CROWFALL by Vashti Hardy (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in white on a blurred image of a orange mechanical sea serpent
Genre: Science Fantasy (Cli-Fi)
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Standalone


Book cover for CROWFALL: title in silver as an orange mechanical serpent rises from waves above a boy in a boat

Ironhold is an orderly place where “industry brings prosperity”, and where nature is pushed aside for progress. But when Orin Crowfall, a lowly servant boy, learns that the island itself is in grave danger, that knowledge makes him a target of powerful forces. He narrowly escapes on a small boat, but then faces a fight for survival with his robot friend, Cody, in the stormy ocean, pursued by a terrifying sea monster.

Can they make it to safety, somewhere beyond the horizon? And will Orin find a way back to save his family before everything is destroyed? To succeed, Orin will need to dig deep for courage, trust in new friends, and, ultimately, have faith in himself.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


There is an emerging genre (sub-genre?) of fiction called climate fiction (cli-fi.) It’s often speculative, ranging from dystopia leaning to science fiction or fantasy leaning. Regardless of where it falls in the other genres, cli-fi books always focus on environmental damage and human’s involvement in it – usually them trying to save it as well as how they’ve destroyed it.

CROWFALL falls squarely into the cli-fi sub-genre, probably sci-fi leaning rather than fantasy (though, like all Vashti Hardy’s books, it’s in that science-fantast blurred spot between them.) Orin discovers his leaders are exploiting the island they live on, and have damaged it so badly that it’s about to fail. Rather than trying to solve the problem (because that means giving up their benefits), they’re going to abandon ship. A pretty easy to understand allegory for our world!

This book has all of Hardy’s characteristic charm, with fast-paced action and a lovely sidekick. Having such STEM focused books (which is always a win in my book), rather than your typical animal sidekick, Orin has Cody, a robot who’s got her own mind and isn’t afraid to tell Orin what she thinks of his human abilities (or lack thereof.) Cody was my favourite of the characters because she just was not going to pass up an opportunity to tell them what fools they were being.

There are maps (is it a Vashti Hardy book without maps?!) showing the world with more detail than is seen in the book, which helps make the world feel more expansive. Plus there are all sorts of unexplained parts of the world from the sunken city and “silver below.” Hopefully that means there is a possibility of there being further books in this world as it certainly feels like there are mysteries to be uncovered.

Read my reviews of other books by Vashti Hardy:

Sky Ship:

Ghost Machine:

Harley Hitch:

Griffin Gate (Barrington Stoke):


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