15 September 2009

Book of the Week (29): "A Trick of the Dark" by B.R. Collins

In a famous scene in Peter Pan, Wendy wakes to find Peter crying in the nursery because his shadow has broken off, and she sews it back to his feet. Now move the plot to the 21st century, add some years to Peter and Wendy and make them teenaged brother and sister, throw in large amounts of angst and supernatural horror and you have the excellent new novel from B.R. Collins.

Although A Trick of the Dark is inspired by Peter Pan and is scattered throughout with references to J.M. Barrie’s classic tale (which are, by the way, fun to spot), this novel is unlikely to be read to small children before bedtime. The relationship between the popular and charming Zach and his adoring younger sister Annis is fraught, especially when they are forced to spend the summer vacation in a secluded French farm with two parents on the brink of a very acrimonious divorce. Zach has been involved with some pretty nasty stuff back home and now hangs out sulking and foul-mouthed where he shouldn’t be – a derelict barn on the verge of collapse. And collapse it does – on top of Zach, right in front of Annis’ horrified eyes. Surely Zach couldn’t survive this crash? How is it possible that he gets up unscathed? And who exactly is that dark boy-shaped shadow which chases him, leaving death in his wake? Alternating between Zach’s diary entries and Annis’ relation of events, A Trick of the Dark leads the reader down a creepy, bone-chilling path to an unsettling resolution.

Recommended by Noga Applebaum

  • B.R. Collins’ first novel The Traitor’s Game, about friendship and betrayal, laced with a dose of fantasy, has won the Branford Boase Award and is well worth reading.
  • Peter Pan in Scarlet, the recent sequel to Peter Pan, beautifully written by Geraldine McCaughrean, also picks up on the dark side of this story, as it follows the now grown Lost Boys and Wendy on their mission to stop a leak which blurs the boundaries between Wonderland and our world. Not for young kids.
  • In A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin the wish to impress school mates makes young wizard Sparrowhawk release a deadly shadow which he now must chase to the end of the earth - oh, and kill a dragon too.

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