Flint by Margaret Redfern

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Flint by Margaret Redfern

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Haunting tale of war, rebellion, music and brotherly love. A richly atmospheric piece of historical fiction, beautifully realised. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Honno
ISBN: 1906784043

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Will and his brother Ned have been plucked from their home in the Fens. They're on their way to Flint, ditch diggers for Edward I's new castle. Will is unwilling to go, and he's only eleven, but he can't abandon his strange older brother to strangers. Ned can't talk and most people dismiss him as an idiot, but he has skills. He can whisper to horses and calm them, he's a skilled herbalist, and he can make music that moves men's hearts. Ned is glad to be on this journey because he hopes to be reunited with Ieuan ap y Gof, an exiled bard and the man who taught him music.

Finding Ieuan and keeping Ned from harm tests Will to his absolute limits. Llewellyn's rebellion is in full flood and the Norman overseers are well aware that many in their own ranks sympathise with the Welsh cause and have good reason to hate Edward. Ned's abilities raise suspicion and the forced march and hazardous digging aren't the only dangers they face...

I don't get time to read too many books for adults these days. It's almost a full-time job, covering the teen fiction slots here at Bookbag Towers. So when I do get time for something grown-up I cross my fingers that it's going to be good. I'm not sure what I was expecting from Flint, other than it promised a story from a period in history that interests me. I definitely didn't open it up thinking it would prove to be utterly unforgettable. But it did.

It's lyrical and haunting and beautiful - a story of nostalgia and lost love, of power as a destructive force, and of the lives of the little people in days long gone. It's absolutely vivid in its portrait of these little people, of their lives and their jobs and of their opinions and their view of the world. It's easy to forget that even two centuries after the Norman Invasion, England was still a deeply divided country and it wasn't only the Welsh who felt occupied. It's wonderfully well-researched and so Will and Ned's world is utterly absorbing, filled with the little details that flesh out lives.

The writing is spare and elegant and its imagery ties together the various landscapes and the beauty of Ned's music, which underscores and reflects both events and backgrounds. The main plot thrust is a mystery, which isn't particularly mysterious, but which lends the book an almost Hardyesque feel. Everything feels fated somehow. The only criticism I can make is that the narrative is part first and part third person. I'm not quite sure why - apologies to Margaret Redfern if I've missed the significance - and the third person sequences jarred on me a little. I'd have preferred to have spent the entire book inside Will's head.

If you're looking for something unusual and atmospheric to read this summer, I can't recommend Flint to you highly enough.

My thanks to the good people at Honno for sending the book.

Read about Edward I in Marc Morris's accessible and enjoyable A Great and Terrible King. The Owl Service by Alan Garner takes the Mabinogion and turns it into an absolute classic of children's literature. If you're looking for books outside the usual commercial box ticking, then we've liked all the books Honno have sent us: Head Hunters by Claire Peate, Sweets From Morocco by Jo Verity and Back Home by Bethan Darwin.

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Buy Flint by Margaret Redfern at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flint by Margaret Redfern at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Flint by Margaret Redfern at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flint by Margaret Redfern at Amazon.com.


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