Monday, 25 July 2022

THE SHADOW ORDER

 by Rebecca F. John;  

An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Literary Cat ©

 




Hello, and welcome to my weekend Read & Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction! 

Before we get stuck in to this rather intriguing book, I just need to point out our whimsical news update on the antics going on in our village of Upper Much-Mousing (UMM) can be found after the book review. I hope you'll enjoy it.

OK, lets get the show on the road with my review of a wonderful new adventure called 'THE SHADOW ORDER'.

 




BOOK TITLE & AUTHOR:

 

Cover art by: Not listed

 

Published by: FIREFLY PRESS


Publication date:  15 September 2022 


Paperback ISBN:  978 191 310 2951

 

Cover price for Paperback £7.99. 

Kindle available: Yes.

 

Pages:  288.

 

Age range: Middle Grade (9-12 AND upwards)


Any interesting creatures? Yes, mantises, deer and two huge and fearsome wolves!


 

 

SPOILER ALERT


Some as to plot direction and characters. 

 

 

Thank you to... 

 

We are exceedingly grateful to Karen & Firefly Press, & Net Galley for the privilege of getting to Read & Review this book before publication. 

 

As ever, our views are our own, and we only share reviews of books we like and feel our readers deserve to know about and that we hope they will enjoy. 

 

 

The plot



The story opens in the city of Copperwell, in the Britannic Isles. Powered by manual labour, horses, steam and clockwork, it is a world that could be our own one hundred and fifty years ago. 

 

Here we find three longtime friends who share mischief and adventure. Effie Hart, Betsy Blue and Teddy James were drawn together by one incident years earlier. Suffice it to say, that made them strong. Effie is a skilled double bass player from a wealthy family. While her parents wish her to go to Royal Academy, she would much rather continue to play jazz in backstreet venues as part of a lauded masked quartet. Teddy works offloading the barges of goods destined for the city folk of Copperwell but longs to be a great explorer and seek out the Aur, a fabled golden horse. Betsy works and lives over a laundry. Without her parents, she longs to learn more about her past and what the future holds.

 

The city of Copperwell sits surrounded by a canal, over which nobody is allowed to pass. The city has been under a curfew for the past year. It is called the 'Shadow Order'. Except for the feared mounted constabulary, nobody is allowed out during the day. It is an offence punishable by a life sentence in a dark, dank gaol. Or worse. 

 

Why? It is all because the shadows of the residents started to do their own thing. No longer did they just mirror the individual. They show what the individual feels like within at any given moment: big, brave, jolly, cowering. They seem to have a life of their own. This became known as 'The Shift'. It was forbidden to look upon these shadows for fear of what they may be and do. The restrictions placed on the populace were all for their own good, or so the Prime Minister and the Unified Government said. But a year passed, the order stayed in place, and the city folk no longer questioned the removal of their liberty and human rights. 

 

But other things were happening. It became mandatory to maintain musical weather pipes on buildings that drain the rain into the sewers in the streets. The pipes play notes as the elements blow across their lengths. Failure to keep them playing means a hefty fine that few can afford. 

 

On the anniversary of the Shadow Order, the three, led by Betsy, dare to sit on the castle-like roof of Copperwells observatory. From here, they will watch the sun rise for the first time in a year. Whilst there, something strange happens: mantises fall from the sky like petals. Brought on a peculiar wind from their native land far to the east, they soon wither and die in the cold Copperwell night. Betsy saves one; shortly after that, they hear a woman's voice. 

 

Old and poorly dressed, she stands in the daylight, and shouts. Her shadow is quite different, it looks strong and defiant, and is certainly differently clad. The constabulary, mounted on huge black shire horses, arrive and advance on the lady.  She claims that the government has lied to them, caused the shift in the shadows and is manipulating the people of Copperwell, keeping the truth and the money from the downtrodden people. She continues to shout and proclaims that she can prove it all. Catching the sight of the children on the roof but not giving them away, she bellows with all her might that they must "FIND THE ORRERY! FIND—" before she can continue, the now dismounted constabulary, bludgeon her to the ground and haul her away.  

 

Betsy's meagre room over the laundry has a small orrery that had been left by a prior lodger. They soon realise that there is an orrery within the observatory. It is a mechanical depiction of the sun with eight planets that revolve around it in their respective orbits. How it works, or it's part in the lies of the government, they do not know. But it becomes clear to Betsy that they need to break in to see and study it. But to study it, they need to steal it first.

 

The following week sees the arrival of unusual snowfalls and creatures best suited to arctic regions. Is this what the orrery is doing; is it changing the seasons and time itself? Determined to get to the bottom of things, they set out to take the orrery from under the noses of the constabulary.

 

From here on, it is fair to say that things take off in ways the three do not expect. The plot takes our three into highly treacherous waters, where they face the constabulary and risk the lives of loved ones. Friends will be made, and friends lost. Inner selves brought to the fore, and life-changing deeds done. 


  

So, what did we think?

 

Gosh, this was quite a ride. As rich in description as the best Christmas puddings are fruit, this is a sweet morsel that cannot be rushed yet demands to be read. The story is told in the third person omniscient. It has the definite air of a much bolder story style– Arthurian or Tolkein. It is a style that threw me till I got the gist, and then like a thick fur coat wrapped up and kept me literarily warm.

 

I have not read any of Rebecca's adult literature. Still, I can understand why she was, amongst other things, a Costa Award nominee. This is her first venture into middle-grade writing. It is, in equal measure, impressive, rich, characterful, foreboding and heartening. Copperwell is a place crafted so that it could easily be two hundred years ago or a parallel future. There are definite parallels to the actions of governments in our own world on the environment and the creatures and peoples they are supposed to serve and protect. 

 

The middle of a heatwave probably isn't the best time to start an intense and enveloping book. Initially, I really wasn't sure what I had here. By the end, however, I was sad to say goodbye to Copperwell and the assembled characters. I really do want another adventure to be born out of the ashes of this; there certainly is scope for it. As I said earlier, it has the feel of an epic in the making. The social, political and moral issues raised will undoubtedly provide great talking points for teachers and readers of all ages. 

 



So . . . . 



Crunch time. 


Top marks for a story that ably knits together so many fantastic ideas and characters. For me. it is undoubtedly richer and more significant than the cover may suggest. Worthy of a broad age range audience and even a television drama. A must-buy, and one I would have been pleased to have bought for myself. 




Want to buy a copy?

 

To get a copy, please do think of your local independent bookshop. There are plenty out there, and each is just waiting to serve up a treasure of literal magical resource, fun and adventure with a personal touch.

 


REBECCA F. JOHN's WEB page can be found HERE  or type this: https://www.rebeccafjohn.com


 

FIREFLY PRESS' web page can be found HERE.  or type this: https://nosycrow.com/

 

 

And now . . . 

 

THE UMM VILLAGE NEWS UPDATE

Following on from last week's news that the local flock of sheep had been having complimentary full trims and free blue and pale red rinses, curtesy of Mrs Gauze of 'Clips & Snips Hairdressing', it seems they have been attracting a lot of attention from passing foreign tourists. It all started when the flock, an even split of white, red, and blue were seen to laying down in their field in the form of the French flag. The French Ambassador was informed, and keen to repatriate this new enclave of patriots, he dispatched a fleet of Citreon 2CV and free passports to my village of Upper Much-Mousing.

However, by the time they all arrived the sheep had morphed into the flags of the Netherlands and then Luxemburg. Worryingly, come sunset, the sheep looked as though they were lining up for the Russian Federation flag. With pop-up embasies springing up like weeds all over the field, Mrs H was sure we'd need the UN Peacekeepers by dawn. There was even a call from the White House offering the beleagured farmer, Mr Clarksin, an aid package, unspecified military assistance, and advice about independence.

The message from the Britsh Farming Minister, Mrs Heard, (former Minister for Health, Education, Economic Recovery, Energy, and the Armed Forces) was delayed due to the delivery pigeon stopping on route to have a bath. The rather smudged message read: Sorry, tied up ........ ........ party bus....... PM will visit troops in morning.

Once the panic subsided, all eyes turned to the skies, then towards the hedges and finally scanned the flock. Would Navy Seals and the SAS be infiltrating the sheep? Would UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, soon be giving rousing speeches to a bemused gathering of sheep believing them to be undercover special forces? Of greater importance to the villagers, was whether Mrs Singh, proprietor of Singh's World Food Emporium, be able to keep up with their takeaway orders?

Answers to all these points, well, some, possibly none, will be following next week!

That's it for this review. So all that remains is for me to leave you with a picture of me giving the "I'm NOT reviewing another book until I get something extra for supper' look.


© Erin the Cat Princess








Till laters!

ERin

20 comments:

  1. Goodness Erin, if this story of yours is mundane, I'd hate to think what would be really exciting for you.
    You certainly have a great imagination and excellent writing skills. Have you ever written a book yourself?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! We have two books in the offing, as it were. One is mine alone, the other is with Valentine from Noir Kitty Mews blog. Hopefully an agent will pick them up and make them into movies. Now UMM does have so many strange events that we tend to ignore them. If something 'normal' happened I'm sure it would make the local news, MOL
      Purrs
      ERin

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  2. Replies
    1. Yes, my wiithering looks a notorious throughout the district, especially with door-to-door salespeople :) Good books and plots always catch our eyes, and we love to share them as many adults miss out on so many fine tales. :)
      ERin

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  3. That does indeed sound very interesting sweet Princess! Thanks for the sheepish update too, that was a fun one.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! The sheep are at it again, though what nation they are planning on being I am not sure. Certainly wont be anything too complex as I think there aren't enough for the Stars and Stripes or Union Jack, MOL

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  4. Hope ya got that something extra!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, extra meal and a lovely new book to read and share. Look out for our review of FESTERGRIMM, coming soon!
      ERin

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  5. Wow, that book sounds fun...interesting as well...

    Your sheep seem to have some kind of identity crisis! LOL!

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    Replies
    1. A very good book indeed, on all levels. Those sheep do have a very good sense of organization, I'll give them that. I saw one with a tape measure checking distances, MOL
      ERin

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  6. Sounds like a great read and you did a great job on your review. I think you should get extra supper from now on.

    Have a purrfect day and week. ♥

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    Replies
    1. I am pushing my luck on the supper, as I get early and late and very late suppers as it is. I'll settle for treats instead ;) It is a great read, and I heard from Rebecca, the author, that she has ideas and would like to do another!
      ERin

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  7. This sounds like another great read, Erin. We appreciate your reviews -- they always help us add to our books to read list! :)

    We hope you get that extra treat at supper. You earned it!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, an I apologise if you have so many books on your TBR pile, MOL
      Extra treats but not extra supper, which is a bit of a blow, but I do have early and late suppers already so I guess I was pushing my luck :)
      ERin

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  8. "I'm NOT reviewing another book until I get something extra for supper" Sounds fair to us, ERin!

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    1. I assure you it didnt work. I am at this moment doing another review. Mrs H is heartless! Clearly she thinnks book reviews (this is an excellent adventure by the way and one I think you would enjoy) and 8 meals a day plus expenses, is sufficient!
      ERin

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  9. I think that's a great book again, Erin, and I'm sure you'll get some extra supper, Mrs H can't get around that look😹 Thank you so much for your comforting words on the passing of my Little Binky. It felt like a healing on my broken heart. Thank You🙏 Pawkisses from Heaven to the both of you🐾😽💞

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    Replies
    1. We cats know a thing or two, though the wolves had me running for cover! The extra supper didnt come, but to be fair Mrs H does give me plenty (8 meals a day). No harm in asking :) Stay well and hopefully another visitor will come your way....
      ERin

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  10. This is a very good review and the book has just gone to the top of my must read list! The order sounds reminiscent of the pandemic lockdown!
    It sounds like those sheep are intent on causing trouble.

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    1. I am so pleased you liked the review. I hope the book will prove just as good if not more so. Those sheep really do seem to enjoy their lives. I swear they pre-arrange these antics just to get on this blog!
      ERin

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