Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Double-Edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood (Pinborough)

The Double-Edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood is the first book in The Nowhere Chronicles. Sarah Silverwood is a pseudonym used by Sarah Pinborough for her young adult writing while publishing her adult writing, primarily horror, under the latter. The eerie and haunting elements of horror bleed over into The Doubled-Edged Sword, creating a mysterious and otherworldly work counter-balanced with humor and memorable characters.

The Double-Edged Sword is told primarily from the point of view of Finmere Tingewick Smith. Finmere has just turned sixteen and is quite uncertain of the world and his place in it. Before he realizes what is happening, he is drafted into a quest to prevent the end of not only his world, but numerous others. Along the way he makes a few new friends and becomes even more confused about his place in the world.

The Double-Edged Sword is a smartly written novel. The writing and its characters are exceptionally inclusive-- creating personas that draw the reader into the narrative. Finmere himself is vague, lacking hard lines. Fin has no clear background, no clear future, and no clear present. On this blank canvas, the reader can insert themselves. Finmere is more apt to be frustrated, confused, and/or lonely. These are elemental feelings that will connect to the reader, creating a window in the lovely, off-kilter London of The Nowhere Chronicles.

Surrounding Finmere is a motley cast of characters providing a nice cross section of a multi-cultural London. This diverse cast also provides the reader a side-kick. If the poor, rough around the edges Joe isn’t to your liking, then Sarah Pinborugh provides the blue-blooded Chris as well. Joe and Chris don’t exist solely as side-kicks, as they quickly develop into complex characters-- especially compared to Finmere-- with believable motivation. Benevolent, closed mouthed and mysterious Ted provides a stabilizing force.

The Double-Edged Sword revolves around an organization named The Knights of Nowhere. The Knights act as a policing force between The Somewhere and The Nowhere. The Somewhere is the world of the reader. The Nowhere is the closest parallel world. The Knights are able to travel back and forth between the worlds, keeping the peace and keeping The Nowhere a secret to folks in The Somewhere. In the events of the story, the Knights are suffering an internal schism precipitated by St. John Golden, the current leader of the Knights. St John Golden is attempting to manipulate the Magi’s Prophecy to transition the Knights from a policing force into a political force, granting Golden rulership over both worlds. In doing so, St John Golden sets events in motion that could unravel all known existence.

The Nowhere is what makes The Double-Edged Sword shine. It is here that you feel a more direct link with the creative spark within Sarah Pinborough. The Nowhere is a lush, haunting, and strange creation. Sarah’s penchant for horror leaks into The Nowhere, providing rivers of madness, misty borders of nothingness, and beguiling appearances. The Nowhere itself is a temporal patchwork of districts mirroring London as it existed in time-- past, present, and future. One district may be medieval, another modern, and another still the future. These districts also have an animus of sorts, resisting anachronistic changes (such as the installation of lights into the medieval district). The inhabitants of each district are tied to it, unable to travel easily to other districts without suffering debilitating effects. Inhabits of The Somewhere, such as the Knights, can travel anywhere, as they are not tied to any specific district.

Tying everything together is Sarah Pinborough’s understated prose. It is neither mawkish or condescending to the reader as can happen with young adult fiction. Instead it is subtle and supple, showcasing realistic and distinct dialog. With such a diverse cast of characters, their speech and mannerisms could easily have become muddled. Instead, Sarah ensures that each character has a unique identity-- not just through description but with how they speak. When not displaying linguistic gymnastics, Sarah Pinborough’s words drift towards the poetic. In particular, they reinforce the melancholic and mournful tones of the novel, yet are tinged with hope. Her writing strengthens good scenes into memorable scenes. The ending sequence in Postman’s Park is especially poignant. Once finished with the novel, I actually opened it again to re-read those passages.

The Double-Edged Sword is an excellent book. It is a young adult book that is both smart and mature, speaking up and not down to the reader. It substitutes gentle elements of horror for raw violence to provide a dark tone without gritty realism. It is possessed of haunting symbolism and real emotion, avoiding the trite and cliche. It is a memorable and refreshing book that I highly recommend to all readers of fantasy, not just young adult readers.

Memorable Quotes:
"‘No,’ she whispered, and even in her despair, there was such beauty and strength in her voice that it dispelled the darkness around her. ‘No, you will not have your answers.’"
"Surely a Nowhere nobody would never insult one of the Knights?"
"‘You put the stories into my blanket?’ he eventually breathed. ‘You brought me here in it? Wrapped in the Stories?’"
Image Source: Hachette
Review Copy: Self Purchased
ISBN-13: 9780575095311

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