I was really impressed with this debut YA fiction novel from Jack Croxhall. It had me hooked from the beginning and I read it in an evening.
Jack draws you in with the characters and the story, both original and well thought out. I particularly liked feisty Esther and it was fabulous to see a strong female teenager who refused to hide behind her male companion, Karl. Harland and Mr Cauldwell, the main adults of the story, treat Karl and Esther with trust and respect which was refreshing to see as I have lost count of the number of stories I have read where the adults never believe the children and put things down to their 'vivid imaginations'.
Karl and Esther are teenagers who live in a village where nothing much happens. Karl, intelligent and resourceful, is destined to become a teacher at the village school and Esther to work with her parents at their pub. That is until a chance encounter leads them to overhear a threat against a fellow villager and they find a notebook stating they were together at a village neither of them had ever visited or heard of.
There are several positive messages for teenagers in this book and I rather liked that about it too. Although the characters are strong, positive, resourceful and brave, they are also unafraid to break the rules a bit and it makes them easy to warm to and very believable. I thought the Victorian setting worked well for this novel, the characters had to walk to places, use a canal boat etc and it made for an interesting twist when it took hours or sometimes days to get to places which we would consider nearby by today's standards.
The first of a trilogy, this novel is well written, fresh and absorbing. A great first novel!