Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful...

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KIT'S WILDERNESS

Almond (Skellig, 1999) spins teenagers of very different backgrounds and experience into a whirl of ghosts and dreams, stories-within-stories, joy, heartache, and redemption.

In order to be able to care for his newly widowed grandfather, Kit has moved with his parents to the town of Stoneygate, perched in desolate decline on top of a maze of abandoned coal mines. He is soon drawn to follow wild, unstable, aptly named John Askew into a game called “Death” that leaves him sealed up in a tunnel; Kit emerges from the darkness with images of children and others killed in the mines flickering at the edge of his sight, and a strange, deep affinity for Askew. Inspired by Askew’s brutal family life, and gifted with a restless, brilliant imagination, Kit begins a prehistoric quest tale involving two lost children—a story that takes on a life of its own. Setting his tale in a town where the same family names appear on both mailboxes and tombstones, and where dark places are as common as sad memories, Almond creates a physical landscape that embodies the emotional one through which his characters also move, adding an enriching symbolic layer by giving acts and utterances the flavor of ritual.

Askew is a compelling, almost shamanistic figure (not another Skellig, but close), and both in tone and locale this powerful story is reminiscent of Alan Garner’s Stone Book quartet. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 7, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32665-3

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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NEVER TRUST A DEAD MAN

Murder, magic, salacious secrets, and sparkling wit immediately pull the reader into this engrossing medieval whodunit from Vande Velde (Ghost of a Hanged Man, 1998, etc.). Selwyn, 17, is condemned to death after his rival, Farold, is murdered in his sleep. Overwhelming circumstantial evidence convinces villagers of Selwyn’s guilt, so he is thrown into the burial cave to rot with the corpse. Although his fate seems grim, Selwyn is soon rescued by a hard-bargaining witch, Elswyth. She resurrects Farold’s spirit, frees them both from the cave, disguises them, and allows them one week to find the real murderer in exchange for years and years of Selwyn’s servitude. Hilarious mishaps ensue, as the bickering amateurs search out answers, exposing the villagers’ true colors along the way. The sympathetic hero, original humor, sharp dialogue, and surprising plot twists make this read universally appealing and difficult to put down. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201899-9

Page Count: 193

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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