A page-turning fantasy adventure with a strong female lead character. Set in an alternative, post-apocalyptic, Britain, Scarlett McCain and Albert Browne are expert thieves, wandering from place to place to steal from the centres of the loathsome Faith Houses, redistributing the spoils and to stay alive. Scarlett is a feisty and highly skilled fighter whilst Albert has significant mental powers including being able to read minds. Captured by the notorious Brothers of the Hand the pair are forced to perform an almost impossible task against time.
Told in breathless style, our heroes face one seemingly insurmountable problem after another, interspersed with back story chapters explaining why Scarlett is the person she is. The reader is constantly asking how on earth they will get out of each mess and the solutions are nicely unpredictable, each solution helping the reader to find out more about the two main characters. The final climax neatly ties up all the loose ends and ensures that there can be further adventures of Scarlett and Browne.
Jonathan Stroud is known for high quality storytelling, including the Bartimaeus sequence (a personal favourite), and this book is no exception. Tightly plotted, it has elements of fantasy, adventure and mystery as well as some humorous asides.
It is a long book, nearly 400 pages, so would suit a confident reader in upper KS2/ early KS3. It would certainly appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy adventures and would be a great addition to a school library. I am already looking forward to the sequel.
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