THE SEVERED LAND
MAURICE GEE (PUFFIN, $19.99)
To paraphrase Spike Milligan, when Maurice Gee said he wasn’t going to write another book, he must have meant this one. Gee says he was surprised to find himself writing another “young adult” story, having become obsessed by a vision of its protagonist that refused to budge. But fans of all ages will be delighted that he has.
The story has echoes of Game of Thrones – there’s a magic wall that keeps a whole population safe, and there are great families at war. It will also recall The Lord of the Rings with the likes of a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a leader.
But those two works are to a large extent rehashes of Shakespeare’s histories, in the case of the former, and the Icelandic Eddas in the case of the latter, so there’s no shame in that.
There is magic, like the wall itself, which is kept alive by the will of the Old One, the ailing last of his kind, for whom a successor must be found. There is thrilling violence and action. There is an unlikely heroine. There is, in short, everything you want in a yarn.
Fliss is the heroine, with the ability to pass through the wall that defends her land from that of arrogant and privileged Kirk, with whom she is reluctantly paired to save his captured sister and thus the wall and her people.
The Severed Land is to some extent about privilege and exploitation. When Kirk and Fliss are attacked by a group that wants to eat them, Kirk is ready to wipe them out. Fliss’s response is to ask “Who made them like that?” It’s also about people who are so blinded by sectarianism, they act against their own best interests. In short, it’s about the world today.
Not too many pages into this story, I found myself hoping it might prove to be the first in a series. I won’t be the only one.