The London Stone by Sarah Silverwood
|Book Name:||The London Stone|
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Young Adult|
|Release Date:||July 2012|
Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for books one and two and minor spoilers for book three. Read with caution.
And so it has arrived. The final book of Sarah Silverwood’s The Nowhere Chronicles; in my opinion one of the finest and most imaginative young adult series to have been published in recent years. I say that because Sarah has never, not for one moment, taken the easy way out in terms of plot, character development and setting. Young adult novels get a bad reputation from time to time for having weak character casts, fairly casual settings, a lack of innovative ideas and linear plots. Should you be reading this review, I imagine you’ve read, or at least heard of, books one and two and therefore know that no one could ever accuse Sarah’s work of having any of those flaws.
Book three is titled The London Stone and it is this mysterious object of power that the story revolves. Having picked up from where book two dropped us – pretty much hanging from a cliff – we find Finmere Tingewick-Smith’s life having spiraled out of control. Of his two best friends, Christopher is missing and presumed dead, whilst Joe has been so corrupted by the stories that he took from Tova that he has joined the dark side, siding with Christopher’s father: Mr Arnold-Mather. Things are further complicated by the number of people falling to the madness, a disease that turns people’s eyes to the colour of blood, turns their fingernails black and generally fills their body with rage and decay. Fin hasn’t even had chance to reflect upon the fact he’s not even human. Well, not really – he’s a creation of bones and stories that Tova wove together upon the death of a Knight named Baxter.
Now, I hope that’s caught you up and I hope that you’ve remembered how dark things had become by the end of The Traitor’s Gate. You’re probably thinking that this is the book where things pick up and we begin to find out that things aren’t so bad after all? Wrong. Anyone who knows the author, Sarah Silverwood AKA Sarah Pinborough, will know the level of success she has had writing horror and, just as importantly to pacing and tension, dramatic thrillers. This success shines through in this book, The Nowhere Chronicles takes its already impressive development from a Harry Potter reminiscent magical tale (book one) to a dark magical tale, quite unlike anything we’ve seen before (book two), to new heights (book three). I think that the 13/14/15-year-olds who picked up The Double Edged Sword, will be very much thanking Sarah for the increasing level of darkness and, again, that refusal to patronise her readers with a simple tale; now that they’re 15/16/17-year-olds!
With all that being said, it is interesting that book three begins with a shimmer of hope and light. Christopher is alive! Pulled from the river he tumbled into at the end of book two, he chokes up a lungful of water and utters the words, “One shall die and one shall be reborn. It has ever been thus.” This is the beginning of a new Christopher; one that has more power and more ability than he had in books one and two. I think, if there was ever a character that needed a bit more development, or a bit more of a chance to shine, it was Christopher and certainly Sarah gives him centre stage for a good portion of the book.
Joe on the other hand has always been an interesting character. Fin’s best friend who still ‘loves’ him and yet enjoys the limelight that Mr Arnold-Mather offers him. This novel features Joe’s increasingly interesting inner-conflict. Can he really go through with it? Does he love the attention and proximity to The Dark King so much that he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his closest friends? What is in it for him if he does?
Then there is Finmere, who has fallen out of the frame a little. With his two friend’s roles increasing in this story – where does that leave him? He is nothing more than a magically enhanced skeleton after all, right? He doesn’t ever deserve to be here…he shouldn’t be here. This is what I mean when I say that Sarah Silverwood REFUSES to write a simple young adult novel. Not since Sabriel or Lirael by Garth Nix have I seen so much writing that revolving around the thoughts and emotions that teenagers genuinely go through. However, with all this in mind – it’s important to tell readers to expect one heck of a story. By now, the two worlds: The Somewhere and The Nowhere feel closer than ever and the pace of things really pick up. I think the reason the book feels like such a quick read is that Sarah has shortened the chapters and we go from place to place far quicker than in other books. Also, all the characters seem to be doing something and so when one character is travelling, for example, we jump to another character who is involved in action.
Now that Arnold-Mather has Joe on side and finds a means to access magic – we see him go from being an evil, plotting git into a truly dangerous and terrifying man. One of the darkest scenes in the book features him giving a man the choice between the death of his wife and child – a scene that will stay with you – despite only being a couple pages long. Having been able to control the madness and use it for his own personal use, he has been able to build an army of almost dead, zombie-like people with a thirst for blood. The only hope for Finmere, Christopher and the Knights that stand with him is to recruit help from the South. Since book one we’ve heard about the mysterious Magi – but now we’ll finally get a taste of them and their culture. But will they help? What dangers lie in the South? Certainly, it’s not a straight forward solution.
The climax to the novel is truly epic and sums up the series perfectly. I don’t think that are many books that do such a good job of contrasting the heart-warming and the damned right heart-breaking. If you enjoyed the first two books: this one is even better written, the chapters are shorter and the plot sharper, it’s more complex, the characters are more developed and it’s so dark that I’m wondering whether an 18 certificate would be better placed over the ‘YA’ tag?
A truly fantastic climax to a memorable series that all fantasy readers should be checking out.