Reviews /

The Island at the Edge of Night

Authored by Lucy Strange
Illustrated by Katie Hickey
Published by Chicken House Ltd

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The Island at the Edge of Night is a dark-sounding title, matched by a gothic cover (by Katie Hickey) of a mansion on a cliff top, cloaked in mist above a stormy sea. The scene is set.

Immediately, we meet Faye Fitzgerald, the protagonist of the story, and find she is being sent away to a boarding school/corrective facility for reasons she is unsure of. She knows she did something – her father’s cold demeanour confirms this – but her memory is suppressing it. She refers to herself as ‘wicked’ a lot, and her stay on Auk Island doesn’t help. Faye is taken to the island, along with a priest and another girl, Boudicca. Pathetic fallacy is used to frame what the girls are approaching – wild windswept seas and mountains with nicknames like The Knife give an ominous feel to what is to come. And worse does come.

Faye is given pills to ‘help’, but quickly realises this is not ok. The twin bad cop-worse cop duo of Nurse Violet and Dr. Lighter are less than friendly, other children at the facility are referred to as monsters, and Boudicca is soon taken away for her belligerence. Rumours of the death of a child spread, and it is then that Faye realises she must take action. She is drawn to the outdoors, constantly finding solace in its comforting nature, and when she stumbles across a book called Mysteries of Our Ancient Forest by a Dr. Ezra Gault-Firth, she begins to piece the puzzle together.

Faye’s constant self-doubt gets the reader on her side, willing her to win. There is a dark force, a deep cruelty at play, but not one that young readers might guess at. I found this to be perfectly paced, with plenty of goodwill generated to many of the mistreated youngsters. The true intentions of the adults at Auk Island are sinister, raising questions about morality and ethics that would be worth discussing in class.

It is a great read and would work brilliantly as a read-aloud in Year 6, marrying together elements of Groosham Grange, Darren Simpson’s The Memory Thieves, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Lucy Strange has written a book that many children will devour and remember for a long time.