I thoroughly enjoyed Jewel and Thorn. Richard Poole has created a very detailed and well-realised society, with a range of cultures and characters, all intent on their own needs and with their own motivations.
This is the first in a projected trilogy, and deals with the lives and society of tiny humans living in the aftermath of some great event which has removed the Giants (us!), leaving only their houses and artefacts behind. The small people use rats as cart and pack animals, and are in occasional danger from their over-sized environment. Characters have such names as Rainy Gill and Tarry Ramsbottom, quite charming initially, but rather trying later on!
The story focuses on two characters, Jewel and Thorn, both on a family quest. It becomes inevitable that their paths will cross, but Poole cleverly holds this off until the end of the novel. With a main character of each gender, both boys and girls will find much to like in this story.
The pace of the tale varies effectively, just as the journey does. Parts are slow and filled with some lovely description, like here he was claiming to hear the midnight language of bluebells . . . This is followed by speed and action, with characters left on a cliff-hanger. Alternate chapters are told from each characters viewpoint, which is clever at first, but becomes slightly predictable.
Poole creates several long-running mysteries which remain unsolved by the end of the novel. What caused the Barrens? What happened in the Dark Time? Where are the Giants? Alongside that, he tackles some very large questions, which reminded me of Philip Pullman. Thorn wonders about the nature of God and His relationship to Man, while Jewel considers the role of Fate.
This is a novel which fits very well into the fantasy genre, with enough which is different about it to appeal to an audience of young teenagers. The vocabulary is challenging without being threatening. At one point, Poole uses the Lemony Snickett technique of explaining a word, but he only does it once, and is not at all patronising. Great book whens the next one coming out?
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Gellir defnyddior adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.