Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray
Puffin, 2020. ISBN: 9780241384435.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Ellie is an orphan, who is a tinkerer and is continuing her Mother's trade as fixer and creator of strange items in her workshop near the Orphanage where she used to live. Her brother's recent death has left her alone and she has had to learn to be resilient and self-reliant. In a world where the sea has claimed most of the city, a whale is beached on the top of one of the submerged buildings. Ellie releases a boy, Seth, from within the dead carcass and with that act of rescue also unleashes the fear of her home community about the dark power known as the Enemy - the evil cause of the devastation in her City. This enemy is known to take over and possess the body of an individual (the Vessel) and seems to parasitise and wreak power over their life and create havoc in the island city. The local people of the City want to get rid of the evil and are in fear of its presence and so make every effort to get rid of the Vessel. Ellie wants to save the innocent boy from the local fearmongers, the Inquisitors and their attempts to destroy him. He may not be the Enemy, but he is very unusual! Ellie retains a friendship with fellow Orphan, Anna, who helps Ellie and Seth as they set out to set things right. But overshadowing shame that Ellie feels and the secret she carries may cause all of her friends to know great distress.
This is a fantasy novel with a dark and foreboding quality - the possession of an individual by an evil 'power' is quite sinister. The world of the sunken City is also very unusual and with ruins and strange remnant architecture as the foundation of existence the author has created a very different environment for the action of the fantasy story. There is action and supernatural unusual influences through the course of the story and it is a dark fantasy tale for young teen readers. I would not recommend this for too-young readers, even though the central characters seem to be young, because of the chilling nature of possession by an evil power. Teen readers may be able to recognise the hints of the power of fear, shame and guilt that are threaded through the unusual story. It is well written and compelling with a strong female lead character and will appeal to devotees of the dark and gothic genre because it has such an unreal and ethereal quality and will also appeal to enthusiasts of fantasy and dystopian fiction.
Recommended for readers aged 13+ (with care to avoid recommending to those who might be prone to nightmares!) Themes: Fantasy; Grief and loss; Supernatural; Fear; Shame and guilt.