Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
|Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: Classic fantasy at its finest. A massive recommendation for an outstanding debut. Sara Crowe popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
|Date: April 2014
|External links: Author's website
15-year-old Ash has been waiting for his father to come back from the war. He's following in his dad's footsteps as the stag boy in the traditional Stag Chase, and he knows his dad will be proud of him. Running through the mountains whenever he can to train, he's not bothered by the taunts of the other boys who he beat to become the stag, and who will take their places as hounds - he knows their hostility is traditional. But something is stirring in the countryside, and he sees strange visions, while his old friend Mark is behaving seriously creepily. Is Mark just grieving for his father, or is there something more sinister at work?
This is becoming a remarkably strong year for debut authors. The first three months have seen the publication of Trouble by Non Pratt, Anne Booth's Girl With a White Dog, and Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Joining their ranks as a truly stunning first novel is Bone Jack, a deeply disquieting tale which mixes old legends with thoroughly modern problems. Ash's village is reeling from foot and mouth, his father is suffering from shell shock after returning from the war, and farmers are going bankrupt all around. It's the perfect balance of these elements which make this stand out as something special.
I read a lot of books quickly but this is perhaps the one I raced through fastest recently. That's partly because I was desperate to find out what would happen - it's a really unpredictable read - but it's also because there's no way on earth I wanted to be reading it after 10 o'clock at night! (That turned out to be nowhere near early enough as a cut-off point, sadly - I woke up twice during the night. The first time, I couldn't get back to sleep in case a character from the novel was waiting in my dreams; the second, because I was too busy trying to think how to review something this brilliant!)
Ash is a great main character, who's physically and mentally tough but who doesn't know how to handle either his father or his former best friend. It's these two relationships which give the book a lot more depth than I was perhaps expecting - both are superb. The portrayal of Ash and his mum trying to ease his father back into his old life and avoid stressing him out is excellent, while the antagonistic way Mark and Ash interact feels incredibly realistic for two people once so close. The fantasy elements are also brilliantly handled, with strong elements of classic legends like the Wild Hunt being clear influences.
Massive recommendation to all, I'm already desperate to read Sara Crowe's next!
I think fans of this one would be well advised to pick up a classic children's fantasy, The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. For a more recent chiller in a rural setting, Hollow Pike by James Dawson is wonderful.
Sara Crowe was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Bone Jack by Sara Crowe at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Bone Jack by Sara Crowe at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.