24 Great Books in 2016: Day Twenty

I was late to the party on Frances Hardinge. She was recommended to me by another author in 2014 and as soon as I read Cuckoo Song, I knew I had to read everything else she’d ever written. I’m still working on that one, but it led me to Gullstruck Island this year, and that’s a journey I will never regret.


“On Gullstruck Island the volcanoes quarrel, beetles sing danger and occasionally a Lost is born . . . “
In the village of the Hollow Beasts live two sisters. Arilou is a Lost – a child with the power to depart her body and mind-fly with the winds – and Hathin is her helper. Together they hide a dangerous secret. Until sinister events threaten to uncover it. With a blue-skinned hunter on their trail and a dreadlocked warrior beside them, they must escape. Can the fate of two children decide the future of Gullstruck Island?

I’m not entirely sure I have the words to review Gullstruck Island (or any of Hardinge’s work come to that.) You see, Frances Hardinge is a master of world-building, characterisation and prose, and how do you get all that across in a review? Every character has depth and motivation, the world is described so clearly it feels like you’re living there, and I have seldom seen better, more evocative writing than Hardinge’s. She’s brilliant. And then there’s the actual story, with its parallels to our world – the impact of colonisation on native peoples, the deeply ingrained prejudice and racism against ¬†anything or anyone ‘other’, the genocide – and a character journey that means everything. Hathin is just amazing and I love her.

If you haven’t read a Frances Hardinge book, you need to go and find one, and read it now. She is one of the best writers for children and young adults around, and she never disappoints. I promise you won’t regret it.


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