North & South - - Review -


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.

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