In our continuing series, The Edge’s writers look at some of the books which defined their childhood years. Part one features dragons and daemons, and in part two our writers talk about war and pirates.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Sabriel by Garth Nix is a fantastic fantasy which rewards re-reading many times over. The first book published in Nix’s The Old Kingdom series, Sabriel sets the scene for the series which is ever expanding and deepening, as Nix releases new books and short stories set in the world on a pretty regular basis. Eighteen year old Sabriel has always been aware of the dead, thanks to her father’s role as the Abhorsen. Despite this, she has been largely shielded from it because of her upbringing at boarding school in Ancelstierre, south of the Wall which separates the largely modern country from The Old Kingdom where she was born. However, when her father disappears, Sabriel must return to the Old Kingdom and take up the mantle of the Abhorsen. Engaging, and easy to read, Nix creates a system of magic and necromancy which is innovative and interesting, and his characters were so easy to identify with as a teenager, as I was when I first read the series. I keep buying each new release in the series, which shows the appeal of Nix’s world, which goes beyond just a teen audience.
Words by Rebecca James
Stravaganza Series by Mary Hoffman
As a child who loved to read, I was fond of many series, but one of my most beloved childhood books has to be the mystic Stravaganza series with my personal favourite being the 2nd installment, City of Stars.
A set of 6 books, Stravaganza is a sci-fi adventure following the stories of people with a rare ability to travel between our world and the parallel universe of Talia, a world based on Renaissance Italy. Each book follows a new Stravagante (person who can travel between worlds with a special talisman) although the main characters reappear and develop throughout the entire series. The protagonists are all struggling young adults, who use Talia as an escape from their own lives. Talia is a mesmerising world that draws us in with the eloquently described beauty, but each Stravagante soon finds that its cities are full of dangers as a power struggle ensues. A riveting tale that gradually unfolds, it’s the type of series that will keep you turning pages out of sheer, intense curiosity!
Whilst the series is a predominantly narrative tale, it is the underlying messages of the weak finding strength and the lost finding hope, mixed in with colourful insights of an infamous historical era, that makes this series inspiring to young generations.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
One of the timeless classics! Treasure Island appeals to your inner adventure lover, as you follow the tale of Jim Hawkins, a young and rather cocky boy with a tortured soul, on a treacherous quest to find an infamous pirate’s buried treasure. Jim is a relatable character, as he tends to be quite closed to the world, and we love to follow the impact that the character-building voyage has on him.
Upon finding a treasure map in the possessions of a deceased sea captain, Jim joins a crew on a search for “Treasure Island”. Within the crew is a group of scheming pirates, lead by the rogue Long John Silver, who plan to take over the ship and steal the vast treasures as an act of self-proclaimed justice, as they believe themselves to lay rightful claim to the treasure. The pirates exact a mutiny on board and will stop at nothing to get their hands on the riches they desire. Though the rest of the crew seem to be overpowered, they eventually manage to free themselves through an ambush on the pirates and sail home with enough money and endless stories to last them a lifetime.
Treasure Island is a tense story brimming with betrayal and greed that puts emphasis on the unfolding journey, as opposed to the success of the voyage, which ultimately is what develops Jim into a more mature character. Although not especially sophisticated, it is a well written novel with beautifully designed characters that make you think about the “grey area” between good and bad personalities and reminds us that sometimes we have to accept when to stop chasing
Words by Catriona Hanley
The Seeing Stone Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Kevin Crossley-Holland’s trilogy is undoubtedly the first that springs to mind as one of the best works of Arthurian fiction created.
The series tells the life of Arthur De Caldecot; a young page in the medieval world of the welsh Middle Marches, who is given a magical seeing stone. As the stone takes him through the life of the young King Arthur, his own circumstances begin to reflect that of the hero and soon both lives become intertwined. The story is narrated by the ‘real’ Arthur, who takes the reader back in time to this medieval world and allows them to witness first hand how it was to live at this time, making them feel a part of his journey of self-discovery. The chapters with the seeing-stone add to the magic, as they are placed alongside the main story, making the characters’ lives seemingly morph into one before the readers eyes. This makes you anxious to read on and discover whether this Arthur is in fact the hero of legend. This mixture of fantasy and history not only makes this series enchanting and very addictive, but also educational and appealing to all readers with an interest in history. Both young and old alike will be hooked from the first page.
Words by Hannah Postinger.
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
The magical thing about books you read as a child is that they stay with you, and in many ways, shape who you are. This is never more true than in the case of Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, which tells the story of Tommo Peaceful, the youngest of three sons growing up in rural England before the First World War. Each chapter of the book brings the reader closer to the present in World War One, as Tommo waits for dawn and the day that will change his life forever. Morpurgo’s incredible skill with words taught me just how powerful language can be, and his characters doubtlessly changed the way I saw the world. This book also sparked my love for history, with a haunting and heart wrenching account of the horrors in the trenches of war-torn Europe. I dare not think of how many times I’ve reread this, but I have no doubt I could pick it up again and be transported back not only to Tommo’s childhood, but to my own as well.
Words by Fiona Bowler.