Tuesday, 26 March 2013
HIDDEN AMONG US: Review & Giveaway!
The mysterious boy who Lissy encounters at a deserted train station acts like he has known her all her life. Unnerved by his unnatural beauty, she sets about uncovering the dark secret of the village of Hopesay Edge.
The boy, Larkspur, is a member of the Hidden, an ancient group of elven people whose heritage is buried at Hopesay Reach. Before long, Lissy and her brother Rafe find themselves caught up in the fight against terrible magic.
But a bargain has been made that cannot be broken, and if the Hidden catch Lissy now, they will never let her go.
Having read the synopsis above, I bet you think you know exactly what kind of a book Hidden Among Us will be. If you have any familiarity at all with paranormal romance and modern fantasy tropes, you will already have pegged the well-known stock characters of mysterious boy (with added unnatural beauty!), and intrepid girl, and plotted out the rest of the story in your head. He and Lissy are destined lovers who will fall madly for each other. Lissy's parents will be conveniently absent for all this, or so detached/consumed with their own lives that they they don't notice what their daughter is up to. After a series of shenanigans which only increase the pair's passion, they will figure out a way to be together despite their different worlds and all will be well.
Oh ho ho, Dear Readers. How wrong can you be?
Hidden Among Us is not that book. It's a dark, twisting, bittersweet tale of profoundly damaged family relationships, of broken hearts and broken promises, revenge and magic, and of how (especially here in Britain, with our layers upon layers of history, atrocity, folklore and prejudice) some part of the past is always waiting around the corner or lurking underfoot to suddenly swallow you up, just when you least expect it. This is not a paranormal romance. It's a fantasy of a most unusual sort.
There are no stock characters here. We have Rafe, the smart, competent, tricksy teen who ruthlessly and rather tragically attempts to use his cleverness to try and circumvent fate. We have Lissy, the brave but over-protected girl who can't understand or quell the wildness within her, and therefore can't figure out her place in the world. We have Larkspur (my favourite) an honourable man torn between what he knows to be right and what seems to be inevitability, trapped in his father's shadow. We have Joe, steadfast and steady, yet secretly and deeply romantic. And we have a network of parents and siblings and stepsiblings and other relatives all tangled around them, each with their own agenda and complicated backstory.
I'm not going to elaborate on the plot or its events. They do, basically, fit with the back cover copy that you read above. But not the way you think they will. This is a very tightly written book and almost anything I could write here would be a spoiler; not necessarily a spoiler in terms of telling you how the book ends, but more in how those events unfold. Part of the delight of this story is that pretty much nothing in it is what you would expect. That's what made ME fall in love with it, and I'd like you to have the same experience.
Hidden Among Us is beautifully written, in a spare, lyrical style which reminds me of the best kind of poetry. It paints stark, striking pictures of the landscapes that it inhabits; the spooky old house, the surrounding countryside, the features of the world of the Hidden. The elegently simple descriptions of things both mundane and unearthly give the whole story a wonderful ring of truth.
Katy Moran also illustrates the intricate web of secrets, unspoken truths, grey areas and unwritten rules that make up most family units. Each character within Lissy's extended, blended family is characterised by their love for and conflict with the others, which is a delicate sort of balance and very well done. From the outside the way that families interact is often incomprehensible and can even seem faintly mad - but within families, growing up in them, you don't question or doubt the Way Things Are. Katy Moran puts us in the middle of Lissy's family and slowly peels back the layers to reveal an extraordinary history of sacrifice and deceit that's only hinted at in the book's tense first chapter, and a truly terrifying darkness which has been lurking behind the everyday conflicts all along.
Love shines through this story. Not just the love of the characters for each other, but the author's love of the British countryside with its beauty and it's unexpected dangers and its strange, ancient nooks and crannies. Love for all those fascinating layers of British and Celtic folklore and mythology. Not the prettied up versions; the real, uncomfortable, sometimes brutal ones that give you a little jolt when you read them because they seem a bit too familiar for comfort, and at the same time bewilderingly alien. I loved the way that the Hidden were characterised - they are frighteningly inhuman but at the same time it was *also* frightening how human their feelings and motivations could be.
Reading this book, I was strongly reminded of The Power Of Three, one of my favourite Diana Wynne Jones novels. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of that story, or indeed any of Diana Wynne Jones' work. Hidden Among Us closes just as the eye of the storm falls upon the characters, trapping them within a temporary peace that they are fully aware cannot last. It offers no easy solutions and no pasted on happily ever afters. It's a wonderful, truly unique book. The sequel will be out next year and I, for one, cannot wait to see how this situation resolves itself.
Given all that, how would you like to win a copy? Because I have THREE to give away - each with a bookplate that's signed by Katy Moran herself - and it's really easy to enter to win them!
Just tweet about this giveaway - linking back here, obviously - with the hashtag #HiddenAmongUs. That's it! The giveaway will be open to people in the U.K. only (sorry, guys!) and will run for one week. I'll put everyone into the random number generator and pick a winner on Tuesday next week. Remember that you must include that hashtag in your tweet, or I won't be able to find your entry. And you can feel free to tweet as many times as you like, for extra entries - so spread the word!
Good luck everyone. See you on Thursday :)