Pawns by Brian Gallagher

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Pawns by Brian Gallagher

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Em Richardson
Reviewed by Em Richardson
Summary: An interesting, fictionalised account of life during the Irish War of Independence, best suited for pre-teens with an interest in history.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: August 2017
Publisher: The O'Brien Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1847178930

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Pawns tells the story of Johnny, Stella and Alice, all of whom are growing up in Ireland during the War of Independence, and who have somehow become friends in spite of their very different political views. Stella is passionately pro-British, while Johnny frequently risks his life to pass information to the pro-Irish rebels, and Alice is left stranded in the middle, supporting neither side of the dispute.

One thing I liked about this book was that it centres on a period of history I previously knew very little about, which turned out be both interesting and informative, especially given the events depicted help explain the modern relationship between Ireland and Britain. It's certainly a book with a fascinating political background, and Gallagher can be applauded for managing to convey what it must be like to live in a country with such an unstable future, as his characters seem to exist in a constant state of suspense. The novel can be a difficult read at times, as there's always a sense that, whatever the outcome of the war, one side will always be left unhappy, even if both sides do seem to be making sensible points.

I definitely grew attached to the characters - it's difficult not to given their situation - but I did feel they were rather young for a novel seemingly aimed at 'Young Adults'. The characters are meant to be aged around eleven, and they certainly seem their age, meaning some teenage readers will probably dismiss them as childish, or even melodramatic, as they deal with some of the more minor events in the novel. As a result, I think I'd recommend this book to confident preteen readers, rather than older teens. However, that doesn't have to be viewed as a criticism of the novel, as I actually think younger children will enjoy discovering a new period of history, especially if they have any connections to Ireland.

The only thing younger readers may find difficult about Pawns is the fact it sometimes seems more like a simplified political commentary, aimed at preteens, than the adventure story some may expect. Yet, this definitely doesn't make this book boring- it just means readers should expect a book that gradually builds to a tense conclusion, rather than one that is action-packed from the start. Plus, Johnny desperately trying to ensure no one finds out about his role with the rebels ensures the novel is never completely uneventful.

As a whole, this is a stellar choice for preteens with an interest in history, with the advantage of being set in the beautiful city of Dublin, during a fascinating conflict with consequences that were felt for generations.

I'd suggest anyone who enjoyed this book might like to check out Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls, another recent historical fiction aimed at younger readers, and set at around the same time.

Buy Pawns by Brian Gallagher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pawns by Brian Gallagher at

Buy Pawns by Brian Gallagher at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Pawns by Brian Gallagher at


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