This is a book that I first read around the same time that Harry Potter opened up a world of reading for me. I read before I discovered the Harry Potter series [even, would you believe at the ripe old age of 11 reading things like Stephen King], but it is a series that I can definitely say kick started my reading. Harry Potter that is, I probably didn’t fully understand the Stephen King at that age!
In the city of Aramanth, the mantra is, “Better today than yesterday. Better tomorrow than today.” Harder work means the citizens of Aramanth can keep moving forward to improved life stations–from Gray tenements and Orange apartments, upwards to glorious mansions of White. Only some families, like the Haths, believe more in ideas and dreams than in endless toil and ratings. When Kestrel Hath decides she is through with the Aramanth work ethic, she is joined in her small rebellion by her twin brother Bowman and their friend Mumpo. Together, they set the orderly city on its ear by escaping Aramanth’s walls for an adventure that takes them from city sewers to desert sandstorms. Guided by an archaic map, they know that if they can find the voice of the Wind Singer, an ancient and mysterious instrument that stands in the center of Aramanth, they can save their people from their dreamless existence. But the voice is guarded by the dreaded Morah and its legion of perfect killing machines, the Zars. Are three ragtag kids any match for an army of darkness?
As I’ve grown up I’ve often thought about this book. There’s just something about it that has stuck with me. One of the scenes during the climax of the book is one of the main characters staring into the eyes of the big bad, the Morah, and staring into and endless amount of eyes, and the feeling of never being alone. Looking back, and looking at other fandoms, it sort of reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek, with the hive mind controlled by the Borg Queen.
First and foremost, this is a children’s book. The writing and the storyline is fairly simple: the system is oppressive, the system is frustrating, the system needs to be challenged. Said children challenge system and are given a task that would resolve everyone’s problems with a magical talisman.
Even though it’s a fairly simple story, there are a few complex and unanswered questions. The one that baffled me the most was that I couldn’t place a time frame on the story. There was stuff that I thought could be set in an ancient time, but then the Ombaraka and Omchaka and their rolling cities, and some of the tech that we encountered through the main characters suggested otherwise.
The characters of Kestrel and Bowman were okay at best. Kestrel was more annoying that Bo, but also had most of the focus. This was more her fight that Bo’s, he came along to support his sister, because he wasn’t going to let her be in trouble on her own. And he believed in her. Their relationship was a little on the strange side.I couldn’t tell if the author was genuine in their brotherly/sisterly love or if he secretly shipped them, despite his trying to force the love of Mumpo onto Kestrel throughout the whole book.
I think the most fascinating part of the story in that it was also the most terrifying as it plays on the basic fears of most people, even if they don’t know it was that of the old children. These children who had had their lives literally sucked out of them and made them into old people, who would in turn suck the life out of other children. There’s nothing more scary than growing up, especially when it’s forced on you like it is in this book.
I wanted to recapture how I felt when I read this the first time. But I didn’t, and that in all reality is because I’m older now, and read slightly more complex books, even if they are sometimes children’s books! Despite this I am glad that I read this book again as I was able to reconnect to a world that I had largely forgotten about except for that one really outstanding vision that has stayed with me from a young age.
What are you reading at the moment? At this point in time I cannot decide what to pick up next… any ideas? There’s plenty to choose from on my GoodReads shelves but decisions decisions!!
Thanks for reading,