Arrowhead by Ruth Eastham

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Arrowhead by Ruth Eastham

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Cool setting (sorry!) for this thriller inspired by Norse legends makes it stand out, as does the real sense of peril for our heroes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1407137933

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Thirteen-year-old Jack doesn’t believe in the local myths and legends of Norway. Until he finds the frozen body of a Norse warrior boy trapped in the ice, carrying with him an ancient arrowhead. The arrowhead bears a terrible curse, which leaves the adults struck down and nature itself turning on Jack’s town, and the rest of the world. With only his friends Skuli and Emma to help him, can Jack save the day?

This is a cool setting for a story (sorry, too difficult to resist a golden opportunity for a pun there) which makes it stand out from other adventures for this age range. I particularly liked the exploration of Norse myths and ballads, and the way the ballads tied into the plot. Even better, it’s well-paced, has a clever plot, and the stakes feel extremely high here. That’s perhaps rather obvious, as they’re trying to stop the end of the world, but it also had me believing the main characters were in more personal danger than in many other similar books – in many of these adventures it seems fairly certain that the main heroes will survive whatever happens; this never gave me the same feeling of security. (Although you’ll have to read it for yourself to see whether the feeling of dread which crept over me was justified, or not…)

That said, it’s not quite up there with my favourite in the genre as the characters aren’t quite well-rounded enough for my liking. They’re not bad, just a little bit bland. With the standard for this age range set very high by main characters like Kat Stephenson in the series started by A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis, and the title characters in The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss, and Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd-Jones, Jack and his friends are a touch below them.

So, not up there with my absolute favourites, but definitely worth reading – I’ll be keeping an eye out for Ruth Eastham in the future, and I’m certainly planning on tracking down her previous books, The Messenger Bird and her Carnegie-nominated debut The Memory Cage.

In addition to those adventures mentioned above, readers interested in legends will no doubt enjoy Outlaw: The Story of Robin Hood by Michael Morpurgo. Slightly older readers (as long as they're not easily scared!) should definitely check out the amazing Bone Jack by Sara Crowe, a deeply disquieting mixture of old legends and thoroughly modern problems. We also have a review of The Warrior in the Mist by Ruth Eastham.

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