As befits novels in the Kelpies series, Douglas Bruton’s debut novel is a contemporary tale of adventure. And as seems to be the case with many contemporary novels, there is a fantasy element â€“ children like to believe there are powers for good which will come and rescue them when times get hard â€“ and don’t we all?
The stereotypical only child on holiday with slightly eccentric parents, Corrie finds what appears to be a chess piece buried in the sand at Uig. What is clever about this book is the way it takes a genuine archaeological find â€“ the Lewis chess pieces â€“ and provides an explanation for their creation. The Lewis Chessmen were found in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis. They were carved of walrus probably as early as the 12th century and believed to be of Scandinavian origin. But, while their distinctive style has produced many popular reproductions, that is as much as we know about them.
You can imagine Douglas Bruton picking up one of these chess pieces in his hand and wondering… and the wondering becoming imagining. Young Corrie and his new friend Kat discover that local folklore is linked with the history of the chess pieces as magical beasts attack the island once more and only Corrie, Kat and the chess piece magician can save it.
The narrative is assured and the characters likeable and plausible. Scenes are set with a sympathy for the landscape and the weather, which has its part to play, and the dialogue also moves everything along nicely, whether spoken or thought.
A good, unpatronising read for 8 to 12 year olds.