Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
Review by M
Bone Jack is wonderful storytelling: an engaging plot, lifelike characters and absorbingly atmospheric settings and language. I had Saturday morning breakfast in bed so that I could finish it.Ash is fifteen and has outrun all the other local boys to become the ‘stag’ in the upcoming stage chase, where he must race across the hills and return uncaptured by the ‘hound boys’ who will chase him. There are lots of local myths and folklore about the stag chase, and when Ash starts to ‘see’ dark things out on the hills and in the woods, he feels threatened and can’t decide what he should do.
This debut is a compelling and atmospheric read about a teen boy who takes on something bigger and darker than just being the ‘stag’ in the local Stag Chase. Bone Jack shows great care for the living land that we inhabit and pass through.Likeable and complex characters, thrilling suspense, chilling scenes and thoughtfully intriguing subplots boost this novel. Alongside the main plot, different kinds of absent (but loving) fatherhood; conflicting loyalties between friendships and foot-and-mouth ravaged farmlands; and post-traumatic stress disorder, are all easily woven through the novel.
Genrewise, Bone Jack is light fantasy or perhaps magical realism, where the story takes place in a real, recognisable world but the characters can’t figure out if they’re ‘seeing things’ or not. If you’ve read Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, it’s a similar mix to that novel (but the stories are not alike at all).The publisher’s age guidance for this novel is 12+. I suspect slightly younger readers, who’re emotionally mature enough to deal with questions about the taking of life, may enjoy this novel too.
As a debut, Bone Jack has set the bar high for Sara Crowe’s second novel.
Publication details: Andersen Press, April 2014, London, paperback.This copy: review copy from the publisher