Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray and Manuel Sumberac (illustrator)
|Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray and Manuel Sumberac (illustrator)|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Alex Mitchell|
|Summary: Struan Murray’s debut novel mixes dark, surreal and almost Lovecraftian imagery with emotionally-charged characters, an almost unique setting and an intriguing plot.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2020|
In the last city on Earth, anyone can be the vessel of The Enemy - the god who drowned the world - who has come to wreak havoc on the last of humanity. When a mysterious boy is pulled from the corpse of a whale, the citizens immediately believe him to be the Vessel - all except for young Ellie Lancaster, a girl inventor. As the ruthless Inquisition prepares to execute the boy, Ellie must prove that he is innocent - even if it means revealing her deepest, darkest secrets....
For a children’s book, this is a dark and at times surreal story. The very first chapter opens with a whale being beached on a rooftop, and our protagonist has to go and cut it open to stop it from exploding, and then a naked blood-covered boy emerges from the cut Ellie made, asking where his brothers and sisters are. It also evokes quite a bit of gothic horror, with all of the gothic architecture and religious themes running throughout the book, as well as some more cosmic horror-like elements (the Enemy, or 'The God Who Drowned the World', seems like it could've come straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft story).
Our protagonist is Eleanor “Ellie” Lancaster, a 13-year old inventor with a dark past that she doesn’t like to discuss. At the beginning of the book, she rescues Seth, believed to be the vessel of the Enemy, a rather grumpy and sarcastic boy with some strange relationship with the sea. Her close friend is Anna, a rather tomboyish girl who helps out at the local Orphanage, who is reluctantly helping Ellie try to clear Seth’s name, while also trying to persuade Ellie not to risk it. There is also an acquaintance of Ellie’s known as Finn, whom she seems to have a prior history with. Seth is also being hunted down by Inquisitor Hargrath, a member of the Inquisition who lost his arm during the Enemy’s previous attack on the city and will stop at nothing until the Vessel is destroyed. There are also excerpts from the diary of Claude Hestermeyer, the previous Vessel of the Enemy, which shows how the relationship between the Vessel and The Enemy works.
The setting is very interesting. The book takes place entirely within The City, the last city on Earth after the old world was flooded by The Enemy. Sumberac even added in a little map at the front of the book so you know where everywhere is in relation to each other. The Enemy essentially acts as a parasite, feeding off the host until it is strong enough to survive on its own, bursting free from the Vessel Xenomorph-style to wreak havoc upon the city. Since The Vessel can be literally anyone, fear and paranoia run rampant throughout The City. This means that The Inquisition, a holy order tasked with hunting down and killing those suspected of being The Vessel, rule the city. Not only that, but the author has thought about how the city would sustain itself. There are other islands mentioned, specifically used for hunting and farming, that transport food into the city. Whales also play an important role in the welfare of the city, with whale oil being used for lighting and whale meat being a staple food. As such, the Whale Lords have a monopoly on the food supply of the city, growing wealthy to the point that they practically control the city. This adds a layer of realism to the story, and is all the better for it.
Overall, this is a dark, almost Lovecraftian, story featuring an emotionally-charged cast of characters and a fascinating setting.
Similar books by other authors:
The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman – a very similar book series in terms of aesthetics and themes.
Frostheart by Jamie Littler – a much more light-hearted story of a post-apocalyptic setting.
You could get a free audio download of Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray and Manuel Sumberac (illustrator) with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray and Manuel Sumberac (illustrator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray and Manuel Sumberac (illustrator) at Amazon.com.
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