The Girl in Wooden Armour by Conrad Mason is a thrilling novel, a perfect choice for 9+ readers who enjoy mystery and magic. Set in the sleepy town of Brokewood-on-Tandle, the reader soon learns that things aren’t quite as they seem to be. The dynamic cover illustrations by George Ermos reflect the split nature of this place, with our heroine, Hattie Amiri-Gavell, in the centre of it all.
Within the first ten pages of The Girl in Wooden Armour, the reader is drawn into a woodland world of darkness and mystery. We first meet Hattie’s peculiar granny, Dierdre Gavell, on a dark night as she encounters something terrifying in the woods just outside of Brokewood.
‘Then, with an unearthly shriek, it flew forward. The cold black claws closed around Dierdre’s shoulders as the monster bore her back towards the river. She kicked out desperately, but her feet had already left the mud.’ (page 8)
As the story unfolds, Hattie, her father and her brother arrive in Brokewood and become embroiled in a magical mystery as they search for their missing granny. Will Hattie realise that granny’s odd ways with the trees and nature may have actually been for a purpose? Will the motley crew of other magical people in the town help her to fight the darkness as she realises her true potential from within?
Conrad Mason’s comfortable, descriptive style makes the reader feel like they are right in the middle of the action. The language and stylistic choices could be carefully considered in the upper KS2 classroom. How does the author develop pace and suspense throughout the novel? Consider the description below of one of the ghoulish creatures that Hattie encounters:
‘A nightmare creature stood in the clearing. A dark, compact body, gleaming in the moonlight. It was carried by jointed legs, each one looming over its body, each one even longer than Hattie had imagined… The creature moved with delicate precision, testing the ground, and with each motion its limbs trailed black smoke, as though they were on fire. At first it had made Hattie think of a spider, swollen to grotesque size. But now she saw wings tucked in along its back, shimmering like oil.’ (page 126)
In this short description, the reader is drawn-in visually to the scene, adding to the suspense of the action. The author uses repetition (‘each one…’) and carefully selected words (e.g. ‘jointed legs’ and ‘shimmering like oil’) to describe the creature’s physical features and movements, creating vivid mental imagery for the reader. Budding writers in the classroom could use Mason’s style as a framework for creating their own terrifying creature set within Brokewood-on-Tandle. What would the creature look like, and how would it move? What language could you choose to include that not only describes this new creature but that also adds to the overall suspense?
A perfect choice to inject some magic and tension into your class novel or reading aloud repertoire, The Girl in Wooden Armour promises to keep readers at the edge of their seats!
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