Denizen Hardwick doesn't believe in magic - until he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight.
That kind of thing can really change your perspective.
Now Denizen is about to discover that there's a world beyond the one he knows. A world of living darkness where an unseen enemy awaits.
Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
Unfortunately for Denizen, he's one of them . . .
Reading the above blurb you might think that you have seen all of this before. And in some ways you'd be right. Knights of the Borrowed Dark is chock full of the tropes that we have come to know so well in middle grade fiction since Harry Potter burst onto the scene:
- orphaned protagonist? Check
- said orphan has a pretty miserable life? Check
- sudden appearance of a previously unknown relative? Check
- relative is part of a secret society that protects the world from dark magic? Check
Aside from his obvious ability to write a damn enjoyable story, the quality of Dave Rudden's descriptive writing is the best I have read from a debut writer for years. Knights of the Borrowed Dark is a masterclass in writing for a middle grade audience, or any audience for that matter. Open up the book at pretty much any page and a quick scan will reward you with one of the many vivid descriptions that add detail to his world-building, and further richness and atmosphere to the exciting narrative. And these descriptions are invariably brief and impactful, and never at the cost of pace. I'd love to include a few of these in my review, but my copy is an uncorrected proof so I'm not permitted to do so.
Knights of the Borrowed Dark is written for the 9+ audience, but there is a darkness to the story that may be a little too much for some. The violence within is of the fantasy kind, but may put off some parents. The nature of the villains and the way that monsters come out of the dark, may affect children of a delicate disposition or who are prone to nightmares. The villains of the piece, known as The Clockwork Three, could have come straight out of the world of the Cenobites of the Hellraiser movies, especially the lightbulb-eating woman in white. However, the story also shows that through courage and friendship, light can and will overcome the darkness.
I've not written may reviews this year, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I have been experiencing something of a reading slump as far as children's books are concerned so I have not read as many this year as I might have in the past. However, of the ones that I have read, this is most definitely one of the best and already a strong contender for my book of the year. It has everything that I personally want in a fantasy action adventure story, and it is the kind of book that, had it been published when I was a child, I would have read over and over and over again. My thanks go to the wonderful people at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy.