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Title: Hekla's Children
Author: James Brogden
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Synopsis from the book: A decade ago, teacher Nathan Brookes saw four of his students walk up a hill and vanish. Only one returned - Olivia - starved, terrified, and with no memory of where she'd been. After a body is found in the same woodland where they disappeared, it is first believed to be one of the missing children, but is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior, nothing more than an archaeological curiosity. Yet Nathan starts to have terrifying visions of the students. Then Olivia reappears, half-mad and willing to go to any lengths to return the corpse to the earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay...
Review: A thoroughly enjoyable tale which I would describe as a dark fantasy rather than horror. As I read, it brought to mind the stories of Alan Garner – particularly the Weirdstone of Brisinghamen – which I had loved as a child. It took me a while to work out what it was about the book that brought this back but eventually figured it out to be the tone and atmosphere and the tantalising sense of the ‘otherworld’ in the present or only just beyond the veil. The story focuses very much on Nathan Brookes and his attempts to make sense of what happened in the past and, in a way, his redemption. I felt truly sorry for him when he was left behind in Un as Scattie took on the role of saviour. It was a bit of a pity that her character was not as rounded out as Nathan’s as her story is told as a straightforward recount. This makes her seem somewhat lacking in emotion and prevented me from engaging with her more, for example when she describes leaving her child or refers to her daughter, there is a strange distance I would not have expected. However that was the only downside (perhaps to be addressed in a future story?) and overall this was well-crafted and original escapism.
A writer - I think that says it all.