children’s books have become undeniably more sophisticated of late and this can only be a good thing, not only for the young of age but also of the young of mind who still enjoy dabbling in the genre of adolescent people’s literature.
I can’t quite remember how I came across Christine Morton-Shaw’s debut novel, The Riddles of Epsilon, but I’m glad I did as it has all the classic ingredients that still retain an air of excitement no matter your age.
Jess is not pleased when her parents drag her off to live on the weird little island of Lume. But then she encounters and eerie presence in an abandoned cottage, and her anger turns to fear when it begins to lead her through a series of creepy riddles.
So far so good then, we have mysterious happenings on an island which is classic children’s fare, but what separates it out from other books is the sheer scale of the mini mysteries that are posed throughout the text. For each question answered another two or three pop up to take its place, meaning that there is always plenty of scope for speculation on possible plot twists.
To begin with, we have our main protagonist Jess, a lonely child new to the isle of Lume, because she spends much of the time on her own she is instantly identifiable to the reader, who is taking part in said pursuit by themselves. That singular connection, coupled with some of the riddles that can be worked out by the reader if he or she chooses, or if you lack the capacity to put the book down can leave it to Jess to do all the graft, make the book a more intimate affair.
You’ll probably appreciate that this is one of those books where a reviewer has to be, or should be, at any rate cagey in talking to much about the actual plot for fear of giving something away. The joy of this book is comes from being dragged around by the throat at frenetic pace as lots of conundrums are posed and solved to form a rich tapestry of atmospheric mystery.
Rather than delve into this fertile source of pleasure anymore, in a way that may be detrimental to any potential readers I’ll finish up by (happily) stating that if you have any interest at all in; an island to be explored, colourful characters, maps, riddles and that sense of the solitary which you share with Jess, then this book is well worth a read.
Why this isn’t a more well known book I shall never know, it has enough depth and length, as well as being well written and extremely easy to get lost in to put it up there with the giants of today’s YA literature. So here starts the campaign to get the word (belatedly) out.