Short­listed de­but novel is grip­ping read for all ages

The Oban Times - - LEISURE - By Su­san Win­dram swin­dram@oban­times.co.uk

Some­times it feels like young adult (YA) read­ers get all the best fic­tion.

That is par­tic­u­larly true of Black Snow Fall­ing, the de­but novel by L J MacWhirter, pub­lished by Scot­land Street Press.

Be­fore you even open the first page, this book catches your eye – sil­ver, white and shim­mer­ing, Tim Byrne’s jacket de­sign is gor­geous and you can’t help but pick the novel up to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther.

The fact that MacWhirter’s book was short­listed for Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Book Fes­ti­val’s Our First Book Award gives you your first hint that this will be some­thing spe­cial.

The book is full of ideas that are sure to fire young peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tions and get them talk­ing, in­clud­ing science, gen­der pol­i­tics, class and money, the power of books to in­spire and the im­por­tance of hav­ing a dreams.

There is ac­tion, be­trayal, love and a pow­er­ful spir­i­tual el­e­ment run­ning through­out the book that re­minded me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. And it is that fight be­tween good and evil, with the mys­te­ri­ous and dan­ger­ous dream thieves who threaten to de­stroy all hope, in which our gutsy pro­tag­o­nist Ruth finds her­self sucked into.

The story, an imag­i­na­tive mix of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion and fairy­tale, takes place al­most 500 years ago in 1592.

Ruth is a young no­ble­man’s daugh­ter who has lost her mother and is miss­ing her ab­sent fa­ther. But de­spite her losses and emo­tional chal­lenges, Ruth em­bod­ies the de­ter­mined spirit that we all hope is in­side us, and as such it makes her the type of lead char­ac­ter we all want to iden­tify with.

MacWhirter’s book, while open­ing with a ter­ri­ble act, leads us into the drama at a steady pace, build­ing mo­men­tum un­til you find your­self gripped in the drama and ex­cite­ment of it all.

This is a pow­er­ful tale with real moral com­plex­ity, and stand­ing strong at its cen­tre is the mes­sage of hope, and it is that mes­sage that makes it a book that all ages – not just young adults – will en­joy.

MacWhirter has got off to a crack­ing start – I could not put the book down. And this ‘young’ reader awaits her next novel with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Ed­in­burgh-based au­thor Liz MacWhirter was short-listed for her de­but novel Black Snow Fall­ing at this year’s Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Book Fes­ti­val.

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