S. F. Said is one of those rare writer’s who, despite writing books for a younger audience, manages to pack very vivid well-developed characters and difficult themes into his books whilst never bogging it down or slowing the pace. Having previously read Varjak Paw when I was younger and again a few years ago, I knew to expect brilliant writing and themes from Phoenix but with this being a science fiction novel, obviously this would be a departure from the more philosophical Varjak Paw stories.
Pairing S. F. Said’s writing with Dave McKean’s dark and atmospheric illustrations will always be a winner for me. The use of the black and white illustrations that almost bleed in and around the text makes this a really well-designed book and I couldn’t imagine this story without the images.
The world building and characters, as I said, are vivid and believable. I grew emotionally attached to all of them but especially Lucky, our young protagonist. I loved how there was a perfect balance with regards to the characters; there were strong female and male characters, making this a rare middle-grade/YA read that hasn’t been overtly gendered and could be enjoyed by any young reader.
This book explores themes such as power, fear and war in a way that would never be too overwhelming or complicated to a younger reader but it has the right level of depth and intrigue for older readers alike.
Overall I would highly recommend this novel if you are looking for fast-paced science fiction read, a book for a younger reader or anyone who wants an introduction to the genre.
5 out of 5 stars!