With my kid’s head on I loved Banshee in the Well. The idea was great. Niall finds a banshee, Sathra, down a wishing-well and rescues her. She turns out to be a trickier character than he first realizes. A great character as well from a kid’s point of view, sparky, spiky and full of life – which she’s trying to hang onto at all costs. Any child would identify with Sathra and with the dilemma she faces, which I won’t tell you about because it would spoil your fun.
And therein lies my ‘but’. From the blurb onwards – which acts as its own spoiler – I knew too much. And I knew too much because I was told too much and most definitely too soon. What could have surprised me was frequently spelled out. Where I could have had the pleasure of discovering things, I was told them instead.
So, when Sathra’s been rescued, for example, before I’d had time to decide whether or not to trust her, I’d been told the legend of the devil child. And later, when I could have been still wondering who Sathra was, I knew about the Banshee Sisterhood. The information had to come out some time, but did it have to happen so soon? I’d have liked some suspense here, but Robin Lovejoy is an impatient author with a lot to tell – and she can’t wait to tell it.
Having said all that, Lovejoy’s first chapter is exciting and dramatic, her portrayal of the 21st century through a stranger’s eyes is insightful, and there’s a real skill in the way she presents that stranger – even with her dastardly intentions – in an attractive light. With speech that’s weird to modern ears, and her equally weird markings, Sathra’s a fascinating mixture of mythical and punk.
‘What’s the matter?’ said Stewie. ‘Don’t you like girls?’
‘Well… I guess I do,’ said Niall. ‘Except the stripy ones.’
‘Stripy girls?’ said Stewie with a grin. ‘Get a lot of those in Cumbria, do you?’
‘No, just the one,’ said Niall. ‘And I don’t need to worry about her any more. She’s history.’
I don’t think so. I feel a sequel on the way. Robin Lovejoy is a good young writer despite my little gripe. I enjoyed her book, I’m sure that many children will love it and I wish it well [excuse the pun].
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