If Susanna Clarke wrote for children (and if Dan Brown could write) the result would be this book. It's got everything - alternate worlds, faeries, life and death, witchcraft and even a secret Catholic sect. Superb reading for children with a rich vocabulary and all the right ingredients to keep their interest right up to the end. While not shrinking from the unpleasant realities of the Elizabethan period, good eventually triumphs as a result of the determination and courage of two girls whose lives are intertwined, Isabella and Elizabeth. Questions of morality and religious principles exercise the thoughts of the girls as they endure hardship and tragedy. However, the book never sinks into sentimentality and the girls overcome all, eventually rescuing the adults in the book, something all children want to read. Although the two girls are unequivocally in the centre of the action, they are supported by two strong female role models from whom they learn their loyalty, love, empathy and self sacrifice.
The book conjures up a community split by religious factions and asks how much people are prepared to sacrifice for their faith, something which is pertinent to the questions young people are asking in the 21st century. Facing dangerous ignorance and prejudice, their loss eventually brings about gain and the book has a very satisfying ending when a family is reunited and the villain gets his come-uppance, with a mysterious twist on the last page. This is Sarah Singleton's second novel and she has achieved a remarkable work establishing her firmly in the company of Philip Pulman and G P Taylor.