William Nicholson came to my secondary school for a casual book signing in yr 9- it seemed not many people had heard of him at the time and around 6 people showed up. (Me being the book nerd even then) I figured I was in the minority. He didn’t become my favourite teen author until some time after, so in hindsight, boy am I glad I went ~ Fan girl moment!~
Each book in the trilogy is so different. They can exist independently, or as one long story. They leave you with a strange, dreamy feeling. It takes place in a world that could be our own. In an unknown country, a society tucked away; a city within a city, people so like us and yet live in under such different circumstances. It is this which is so appealing. William Nicholson has an amazing way of establishing a premise for his novels, a world with its own lore that provides a perfect escapism for the reader. In fact, reading the second novel “Slaves of the Mastery” you may think it shares many similarities with Gladiator, with the shadow of a coliseum, fights, spell binding dances and hard weary travelling through dusty terrain. And there’s a reason for this. Wait for it….the author is actually the screen writer for “Gladiator”, “Les Miserables” and “First Knight”.
So not only is he a screenwriter, but he’s also a playwright and novelist! However, something I wondered about- the trilogy was never made into a film. Though the books had the potential to be made for the big screens, I’m glad it wasn’t. There are so many books ruined by films that even the authors themselves have come to despise all that their hard work, sweat and passions had gone into. Of course, this isn’t ALWAYS the case.
So what happens in the books? Read on to find out…
“In the walled city of Aramanth, exams are everything. When Kestrel Hath dares to revel, the Chief Examiner humiliates her father and sentences the whole family to the harshest punishment. Desperate to save them, Kestrel learns the secret of the wind singer and she and her twin brother, Bowman, set out on a terrifying journey to the true source of evil that grips Aramanth.”
They go underground and meet mud people, have desert battles aboard fierce ships swept by the winds, defeat an army of beautiful and captivating Zars bent on destroying all in their path, all the while trying to escape old children whose touch will turn them old and frail. So, a lot happens.
There is a five years gap between the first and the second book, and the twins (of about 10 or 11) are kids no longer…
“Slaves of the Mastery”
“When the ruthless soldiers of the Mastery strike, the city is burned and its people are taken into slavery.” The twins Kestrel and Bowman are separated and she vows revenge. Kestrel is a spirited character, bold and energetic- a kid who never does what she’s asked and a bit of a trouble maker (as shown by the first book!) whereas her brother is quiet and reflective, and has astounding abilities of empathy. (and later, mind reading) The characters have grown up, and are no longer children and you as the reader follow them on this journey. As action packed as the first book was, the second is on a larger scale, think Lord of the Rings with epic battles…
Now we get to the final instalment which is perhaps my favourite, though the most frustrating. The characters are in search of their homeland through ice – to face starvation, blizzards and kidnapping by bandits as well as encountering mind control. This book is a coming of age story, the young, happy go lucky kids in the first book are young adults now, who face very adult fears and concerns. Fear over losing a parent, of unattainable goals, of illness, death and sacrifice. They must all make important decisions.
It made me feel a range of emotions. When I first read it I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, it made me angry. But I think that’s the point of it. To make you feel a range of emotions, happiness, sadness, fear and anger; to think about your own life. The ending wasn’t perfect, and it took me a while to realise that was okay. That’s real life.
The most important thing I learnt from the ending was about faith. Bowman has a blind, almost spiritual faith to guide them to the homeland, a faith in the good of humanity and that good will defeat evil. Kestrel on the other hand, a sceptic from start to finish often has opposing views. She feels helpless and isolated when her brother slowly starts to distance himself from her.
So what initially confused me, is what does happens to Kestrel? It seems each character has a part to play and Kestrel realises she must sacrifice herself, in order to purge the world of the Morah- the evil that spreads across the land. It is through faith in the greater good. But, there is a part of her that lives in the mind of her twin brother, Bowman. I always had the idea that Kestrel and Bowman would remain together- they understood each other and were each a part of the other, with the ability to communicate without speaking. For some reason, the idea of them separating was heartbreaking, and at the time I didn’t understand why they would have to go through life independently, or even, why one had to go away.
The plot lines are extremely memorable and unique, and very imaginative. SO much happens and yet it all links together perfectly and manages to maintain its simplicity. I imagine the books to represent the elements. The city of Aramanth in the first as earth, the second as fire and destruction, the third air and ice.
They are one of those books that become part of your childhood, growing up with a story that contributes to your concepts and your ideas and if powerful enough- actually form the basis of who you are/will be as an adult.
That’s why children’s and teen books are so important for providing a positive message.
So let me know what you thought of the books, if you have read them or would like to.
If you had 5 minutes with the author, what would you say, or ask?