Halo by Zizou Corder

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Halo by Zizou Corder

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A fast-paced and absorbing tale of one girl's determination to survive and discover her true identity in Ancient Greece.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 978-0141328300

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When Halo is a baby, a centaur finds her crawling up a beach, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. This scene shows, right from the first page, the courage and determination which characterise her during the course of this book. No one has any idea who this human child is, but the golden owl amulet and the curious tattoo on her forehead suggest she is special. She is adopted by the family and for ten years she and her centaur brother Arko lead an idyllic life on the island of Zakynthos. But ten years later Halo is kidnapped by fishermen and sold into slavery. She escapes and disguises herself as a boy because as a girl she can have little or no respect, and no freedom of action. Still disguised as a boy she lives with the Spartans, falls in love, and is given clues to her true identity by the famous Oracle at Delphi.

The book is a series of energetic, breathless adventures, interspersed with gentle and light-hearted moments, particularly when the centaurs appear. The themes dealt with are serious: the folly of war, the restricted role of women, and the positive contribution they can make when circumstances allow, but because Halo is an attractive and likeable heroine who battles the odds and refuses to submit to a miserable fate, there is no sense of preaching. The freedom she enjoys on Zakynthos, enjoying a simple and happy life among peaceful, gentle people, is contrasted with the restrictions and foolishness of the human world and its laws. The ancient wars between Greece and Sparta are usually presented as heroic and inspiring, but here we see the other side, particularly the senseless killing of the poor farming families who neither understand nor care about the quarrels of their rulers.

The book has a girl as its main character and therefore will probably appeal more to girl readers, but there is a wealth of fascinating detail about the Spartans and the training of boys too. Halo herself is lucky that her childhood with the centaurs gave her the chance to learn to ride, and to develop her skills as an archer: if not, hers would have been a very different story. The authors provide copious and gruesome details of injuries and surgery, and how people suffered and died from plague. They show how the timing of battles can be dictated by things as simple as the weather, how loyalty to the group must sometimes be put before loyalty to oneself, and the difficulties of falling in love in war-time with someone who happens to be on the other side.

The book is a cracking good tale, which will also provide much food for thought and discussion. And while it is labelled as a children's book, it provides a satisfying and engrossing read for adults too. In fact, the only reason I didn't give it a straight 5 was because of the coincidences, which were a little too hard to swallow, especially the revelations about one of her parents. This kind of twist of fate is, to be fair, very much in the style of the Ancient Greek heroes, but today's reader requires a little more coherence. However, this is a small complaint: the story will engross and thrill.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestions: The Beasts in the Jar by Lucy Coats and Anthony Lewis, Dido by Adele Geras, and The Man from Pomegranate Street (from the Roman Mysteries series) by Caroline Lawrence.

Buy Halo by Zizou Corder at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Halo by Zizou Corder at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Halo by Zizou Corder at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Halo by Zizou Corder at Amazon.com.


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