When I first came across Reavers' Ransom, and studied the synopsis of the story, I was expecting a swashbuckling tale featuring pirates or war of Vikings taking place centuries ago. Instead, I got the chance to read a tale that cleverly combined future life with barbarism, the dark ages and Victorian living.
Emily Diamond's plot goes like this. Thirteen-year-old Lily Melkun is out fishing with her sea cat one night when savage, ruthless reavers raid and ravage her village, kill her grandmother and kidnap the Prime Minister's daughter. As a result her village is blamed for the whole disaster and is threatened with slavery, death and enrolment into the army. Determined to do something to advert the crisis and restore peace, Lily sets sail with a mysterious ransom to pay the reavers for the return of the Prime Minister's daughter.
On the other side, one of the Reavers, a young man named Zeph, is in the midst of succeeding his father as leader. Preparing for what is expected of him, Zeph must also deal with numerous challenges. Such as his bullying brother Roba, the threat of the inevitable war and the fact that underneath his exterior, lies a good heart. And his path will cross with Lily's to give both children the challenge of their lives.
As I said earlier, I was expecting this novel to be set in medieval times, but what Emily Diamond has cleverly done is provide the reader with a captivating idea of what future life in Britain could be like. The world here is that modern society has fallen into a great collapse. Computers and technology have now become the stuff of myth and as a result, the human race have stepped back into the dark ages, riddled by famine, strict Victorian rules, dictatorship, barbarism and superstition. Things like mobile phones are interpreted as `magical boxes', the capital of London, Manchester United, the Prime Minister living at Downing Street: all facts wonderfully distorted because of the ruination. It's a creative idea and one that has plenty of merit.
Like Austin Grossman's "Soon I Will Be Invincible", Diamond has written Reavers' Ransom in first-person as told by two characters. She takes turns to write the chapters from the perspective of both Lily and Zeph (the central characters) and does a good job alternating between the two of them, skillfully presenting their personalities, mindsets and views of the other. Her writing style is similar to that of G.P. Taylor, and in a lot of ways, reading this reminded me of "Shadowmancer". There's likeable protagonists, nightmarish circumstances, truly despicable antagonists, twists and turns, fascinating concepts and a good use of superstition.
However, there are (admittedly) faults in Emily's writing. To me, the novel got off to a sluggish start and I found it tricky to get into at first. Also, the pace of the story alternates between `too quick' and `too slow' at times. Plus, the ending creates mixed feelings within me. Although it is somewhat satisfying, it also feels partly unresolved with quite a few plot threads dangling. As a result, I don't know whether I should be expecting a sequel or two or for this to be a stand-alone tale. A more definite ending with clear answers should've been spelt out. Although it didn't really bother me, some of the language and dialogue used may also nag at other readers' tastes.
But despite these criticisms, I love it. I finished reading the book recognising Emily Diamond's great talents and her gift for creative writing. Reavers' Ransom is a cracking children's read and will pleasantly surprise older readers. Perhaps not essential, but certainly recommended.