Raiders' Ransom, by Emily Diamand

Raiders' Ransom, the debut novel from writer Emily Diamand, was the winner of the inaugural London Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, and it's easy to see why: Diamand's blend of kid-friendly moralizing and high adventure is exactly the kind of one-two punch high-minded book critics love.

Diamand's futuristic fantasy is set in 23rd century Great Britain, a place where technology is limited, most of what used to be England is now underwater, and the remains have been divided between "Greater Scotland", the Ten Counties, and London-based groups of Viking-style raiders. Thirteen-year-old Lilly Melkun is a fishergirl in a small English village, earning her living on the water with the help of her pet, a telepathic cat who warns her of danger. When raiders kidnap the daughter of the English Prime Minister and Lilly's village is blamed, she steals a valuable and ancient jewel and sets out to ransom the girl. Along the way, she meets Zeph, a raider boy whose world seems absolutely alien to her... but when war breaks out between the English and the raiders, Lilly and Zeph realize that cooperation or death might be their only options.

While the majority of Raiders' Ransom was entertaining, beautifully written and fast-paced, the final chapters of the book suffer from "Second Book Syndrome", an all-too-common problem for fantasy authors. The last thirty pages of Diamand's book should have been devoted to either A) tidying up loose plot threads, or B) whipping readers along to a nail-biting cliffhanger. Instead, they're mostly spent setting up her sequel, providing us with neither excitement nor closure, a state of affairs which had us irritably checking online booksellers to see if the book was already out in England—after all, we need to find out what happens next, but we were most unhappy about being strung along until August 2nd, when Diamand's sequel (Flood and Fire) comes out here in the States.

[Review based on publisher-provided copy.]
Posted by: Julianka


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