Monday, 18 April 2011
West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish
March 2011 (UK) 1st May 2011 (Australia), Harper Collins Children's
Paperback, Review copy
Summary from Harper Collins
An epic and action-packed fantasy adventure that weaves together Norse legends, shadowy creatures and an unforgettable hero.
When Peer is orphaned he is taken by his wicked uncles to live at their foreboding mill in the shadow of Troll Fell. Here he meets beautiful and spirited Hilde and after a terrifying encounter with the sinister creatures who live below the fell the pair form an inseparable bond. They are thirsty for adventure, so when a Viking longship docks at their village, they decide to set sail for Vinland – a mysterious place across the perilous sea. But are the ship's captain and his sword wielding son really honest sailors? What creatures lurk in the shadows and forests of the new land? And will Peer and Hilde ever return? Spanning years and continents and filled with brilliantly imagined characters and creatures, this is gripping, atmospheric fantasy at its best.
I've seen Katherine on twitter a few times, said hello, and I think we've both said something on each other's blog (I think it's Katherine who likes Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse book as much as I do, a novel written in the early 20th century, which has since been turned into the film The Secret of Moonacre - or something similar. The movie takes a huge creative license on the book, but it's good if you forget the book. Some parts are a perfect interpretation). I promise I have a point with this. My theory is if nice people like at least one of my favourite books, it's quite probable that I will enjoy their work.
Initially it took me a little while to get into West of The Moon. I confess it's because it took a little time for the female protagonist, Hilde, to play a role. I know that I'm not as prejudiced as male protagonists as I used to be (I used to refuse to read books with them in!), but I still relate more to the females. As soon as Hilde arrived, I was hooked. Peer is very unfortunate in who his family is, but thankfully the horrible uncle will get his comeuppance. Unfortunately, the uncle will bring great misfortune and worry down on Peer. This isn't a happy, fluffy bunny books. Trust me - trolls are not in any way cute. They are freaky. I confess that when I got to the part of the troll baby who sang/spoke in verse, I nearly shut the book forever. I had a major freak out at that part, the part which shows how troll babies are very different to human babies. I knew it was building up to something, I hadn't figured on getting quite so engrossed in the book. So it's a good thing that I was terrified. It was because I sort of 'know' Kath a little online which made me face my fears, reason that it must be the worst point of the book (for me), and carry on reading. Plus there was that not so small point of wanting to know what happens next!
The imagination in the book is phenomenal. It's not just the trolls, where they live, how they trick people, and how much of a menace of society they are. It isn't the joy Peer gets when relieved from his family hardship, only to face more problems and trials. It isn't solely the strength within Hilde, how she cares passionately for her family - even the adopted members - or even how she eventually cares for Peer. It isn't Hilde's mother who is quite a force in her own right. It isn't the super scary villains who have me very glad I didn't read this after dark. It's all of those things, and many more that made this such a great read. All of my emotions were engaged - some at scarily high levels, I cried a bit, I smiled a lot. I sat with a cushion nearby not quite believing what I read.
It is a hefty book (over 600 pages) but don't let that put you off. It is divided into three parts, with an overall story arc as well as individual ones for each part. I learnt a lot about Vikings. I loved all the detail about how they gathered food, how the men went off on adventures (idiots), how easy it was to lie about what happened when men went adventuring, how hard life was, the small joys. The real vikings didn't have the aid (most of the time) of the Nis, who is a real help in the home when he isn't sulking. They didn't have trolls to deal with, although some of the different races they met may have looked like trolls. The book covers the topics of families, friendships, exploration, differences between people, greed and love. There is something for everyone. If, like me, you get frightened easily, only read this book in daylight.
Find out more about Katherine & her books on her website.
I give this book 9/10.
For a read about vikings, check out Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen