A girl struggles to find her sister’s lost shadow, and her own, in this debut.
On the morning of Gail’s 12th birthday, her shadow leaves her, rippling away outdoors. Gail isn’t particularly concerned—between her father’s leaving two months ago and her older sister’s subsequent depression, she has bigger things to worry about. But when Kay’s shadow disappears, too, Gail sets out in pursuit of it over the remote, forsaken end of the Scottish island where she lives. Gail’s afraid to swim without Kay—more than that, she can’t be herself with Kay. And Kay can’t be herself without her shadow. Following the shadow into a vast mazelike cave, she meets chatterbox Mhirran and menacing Francis, a pair of siblings also hunting shadows; a gang of mussel poachers; a wildcat and whales; and the living embodiments of storms. Fluent and sophisticated storytelling combines with precise sensory detail and a tangible sense of place; characters both human and non- are real, multidimensional, and sympathetic. Even the shadows of petrels and the rocks themselves come to life. Ilett blends magic and reality so deftly that one can be mistaken for the other; both have a sharp, briny tang of the sea. Gail’s ultimate triumph feels real and hard-earned. Gail, Kay, and their mum have brown skin; Gaelic-speaking Mhirran and Francis are pale.
Fantastic in both senses of the word. (Fantasy. 8-14)