Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson

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Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Andrew Lawston
Reviewed by Andrew Lawston
Summary: The stakes are raised in an action-packed sequel to Knife. More faeries, more magic, perhaps a little less charm but an engrossing read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Orchard Books
ISBN: 978-1408307373

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Fifteen years after the events of Knife, the Queen of the Oakenwyld is dying of old age. She charges Knife's daughter, Linden, with the task of finding other faeries out in the world. Knife is now living in the human world with her husband Paul, and her mission to protect the Oak is put in jeopardy by the arrival of Paul's teenage cousin, Timothy.

The discovery of a wider faery community away from the Oak is not quite the happy event that Linden dreams of, and soon she and Timothy are plunged into a desperate race to seek aid for the Oakenwyld against an implacable tyrant.

Although Rebel shares many characters and themes with Knife, they are very different books. Where the vast majority of Knife centred on the Oak and Paul's house in Kent, Rebel quickly expands the setting to take in London and Wales, and is much more of a quest narrative. The Oakenwyld's exclusively female society, with its economy based on bargains, is reinforced in broad strokes for the benefit of new readers before it is left behind for much of the novel's action. This keeps the material fresh and it is only in the brief returns to the Oak that Rebel feels as though it is going over old ground.

At the same time, the switch to action and adventure robs this sequel of some of the first book's charm. The faeries' day to day struggle for survival is glossed over here in favour of lashings of magical battles which, although very well-written, have been seen before.

This is a minor criticism, however. Linden is a more believable heroine in some ways than Knife, not nearly so self-assured and confident. She is an innocent, leading to the odd humorous misunderstanding, but this also serves to highlight the unpleasant nature of her enemies. Timothy, a missionary's son who is questioning his faith, is a believable character with whom the reader can identify – aside from a faintly intrusive didactic interlude discussing the relationship between faith and science. The enigmatic Rob (a clear nod to Robin Goodfellow or Puck) is also a masterful creation, his uncertain loyalties reinforced by the dark secret behind his musical talent. Even minor characters like Martin, an apparently evil faery who is clearly destined to play a larger part in the next book, are well-drawn and engaging.

As well as Robin Goodfellow, there is also a sneaky reference to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which made me think that there were probably other references that I hadn't spotted. These playful asides never intrude but add enjoyment for anyone quick enough to spot them.

The action is constantly exciting, and the narrative races along at a terrific rate, but somehow the story never feels rushed, and the action never takes place at the expense of characterisation. The villains all have plausible motives (to say more would be giving away a great deal of the plot), and the heroes are all flawed to a greater or lesser extent. Some of the plot twists can perhaps be guessed in advance by experienced readers, but younger fans should be surprised by events in the thrilling climax.

A third book, Arrow, is due out in 2011, and it is foreshadowed by events at the conclusion of Rebel, but this second volume always feels like a novel in its own right, rather than simply setting up a finale. You may find this in the children's sections of bookshops, but it's a rewarding novel for readers of all ages.

Buy Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rebel (Knife) by R J Anderson at Amazon.com.


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