The Book of Sand by Theo Clare

The Book of Sand by [Theo Clare]

The Book of Sand starts as a story of two worlds – almost two different dimensions. There is the desert with shifting sands and dunes that are capable of burying whole cities; the nights are haunted by monstrous, blood-thirsty beings who are neither dead nor alive and who don’t seem to have a stable physical form. In that world a group of strangers is thrown together by fate or rather by mysterious design. The group – referred to as Family – travels by day in search of Sarkpont (a holy grail that has the power to end their apocalyptic ​desert trek). By night they cower in their shuck which is detached and suspended in mid-air to protect them against night-time perils. Spider, possibly of French heritage but that is only implied, is the focal character. We see the Family’s endeavours through his eyes.

In parallel to the desert world, there is the contemporary world of a teenage girl called McKenzie, a science geek, fascinated  with sand and desert ,who one day wakes up to find a lizard in her bed. Her world, though seemingly safe and ordinary, begins to undergo a strange transformation. Others can’t see what she is seeing and soon her mental health comes into question. 

You know that in time the two worlds will collide or merge in some way. The story leads that way. I found McKenzie’s story unremarkable at first, but soon it absorbed me and at some point took over from the fantastical world of the desert. Although you will have six hundred pages to plough through, this book is worth persevering with. Your time will be well invested.

The Book of Sand is a reflective and mesmerising tale set in a dystopian reality which tests man’s resilience. It is about interdependence and commonality of purpose.  It is about togetherness and the intrinsic value each of us represents. All in all, it is an exquisite and thought-provoking story. The ending will take you deep inside yourself, into your past and even your beginning.

After the Fire by Will Hill

There are two time dimensions in this story: two eras with a single point of reference – the fire. The fire has destroyed a compound which was a home of a religious cult led by the charismatic and savage father John. The opening chapter thrusts the reader straight into the inferno as the reader follows the female narrator and watches with her eyes the death to the people she called her brothers and sisters and the destruction to the place she knew as her home. She doesn’t take it passively – she does everything in her power to save lives.
After the Fire she is examined by a psychologist and interviewed by an FBI agent, and the events Before the Fire are masterfully pieced together to recreate the life within an extreme religious sect. The young woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery which is a bit of a minefield as she has too many secrets to bury while at the same time uncovering the truth.
Fundamentalism and religious brainwash are pitted against the failings of human nature and against the power of rational mind. There are no winners as such, but this book isn’t about the black-and-white victories, it is about salvation and survival of reason.

The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

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The story – ‘The Tides Between’ – is led mainly from the point of view of a young teenage girl, Bridie Stewart. Set in 1841, the story follows Bridie as she and her family set to emigrate to Port Philip. This means that most of the story takes place aboard the ship, the Lady Sophia, amongst all its passengers heading for the new world.

The character Bridie is someone who another young teen, like myself, can easily empathise with and relate to. In an attempt to juggle the demands of the oncoming responsibilities that come with transforming from child to an adult, Bridie finds herself hiding in her Father’s book of Welsh fairytales. The plot is engaging as you can explore different characters’ perceptions and back stories.

The writing is descriptive and well reflects the time period. I felt transported in time and place. The use of Welsh fairytales helps further contribute to the overall colourful writing.
I would definitely consider reading another book from this author. 4.5*

Review written by Haley Evans (14) who as a little girl also traversed the same tides, but in the opposite direction (from New Zealand to Britain).