The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson

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The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A beautifully executed book about faeries, pucas, ghosts and children trying to find the right path in life. It's witty and fun and easy to read, with some gentle but serious themes about belonging and respect for one another and the environment. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0370329253

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Jenny sits up on the beacon day after day. She never takes a coat. She rarely wears her shoes. She talks to the ghost who lives there, the ghost she can only see out of the corner of her eye when she concentrates very hard. Sometimes Jenny also talks to the white goat who isn't really a white goat. He's a puca, a creature of Irish myth. The puca seems to understand Jenny very well, which is more than her parents, JJ and Aisling do. When some archaeologists arrive and try to excavate the beacon, the ghost won't let them. The treasure hidden inside it must never be discovered, for if it is, the entire human race will be threatened. The thing is, it's not the archaelogists the ghost is afraid of; he can deal with them easily enough. The real danger, though, he cannot face alone. He's going to need Jenny's help...

Oh gosh. What a lovely, lovely book. Anyone could read it, from cradle to grave. There's just enough surreal whimsy to entrance, just enough common sense to keep feet firmly on the ground, and more than enough in the way of ideas to keep the brain actively thinking for days. The prose is witty, snappy and energetic. The dialogue sparkles. The underlying themes of family ties, respect for one another and the environment, and the inevitable passing of time are good and solid and right. I honestly can't think of a single criticism. This is Thompson's second book about the Liddy family, but there isn't any reason why you couldn't read The Last of the High Kings without having read The New Policeman first.

I loved Jenny, the strange, dislocated child who prefers talking to ghosts and pucas than to humans. The Last of the High Kings is about journeys really and Jenny's has the hardest road to tread. She has to learn a great deal about her own identity, but most of all, she has to learn about the value of family and of belonging. The ghost, a - forgive the pun - shadowy figure up on the beacon, is also tremendously sympathetic. His journey is the reverse of Jenny's - he must learn when it's time to let go. Everyone else has a fully-fleshed role to play, in particular the sneaky, deceptive puca, but I thought the juxtaposition of the choices facing Jenny and the ghost were the most striking.

I can't recommend The Last of the High Kings highly enough. Read it - and read everything else Thompson has written while you're about it. She rocks.

The follow up to The New Policeman, this stands up perfectly on its own. Thompson has created a Brigadoon-like world full of humour, pathos and honest good sense. The dialogue sparkles, the ideas are intelligent. Wonderful stuff.

My thanks to the nice people at Random House for sending the book.

If they enjoyed this, sophisticated children might also like Angel by Cliff McNish.

Buy The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson at

Buy The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson at


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