First impressions of Alison Holt’s The Spirit Child come from the prologue- it’s short, sharp and instantly interesting. It’s a concise and long-lasting impression that remains even when you’ve finished the novel. Chapter one presents two female protagonists, both of which are very strong characters. This is a novel where it is clear who is good and who is evil. The use of the spirit guides in the form of animals is reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights trilogy. The reader is offered an extremely detailed construction of the fictional world the novel is set in; with its own hierarchy, belief system and a number of kingdoms. Although an interesting chain of events has been set into motion, by chapter two I felt as though I was still missing details and observations which would have put this novel on a whole other level. For all the detail that Holt did include, it still reads as though the author expects the reader to know what Orinshire would look like, and what Ashton Fork would be like in comparison.
In chapter two the reader is much more thoroughly introduced to Auriela Makena (aka Bree). You begin to understand her harshness when her losses are uncovered. By the end of the chapter, any reader paying attention will have a better understanding of both Bree and the as yet unnamed ‘wild child’ she has adopted. It is evident that Holt has spent a lot of time and effort creating her characters, making them more believable, relatable and life-like. It is time well spent as it really makes the plot come alive. The state of the ‘wild child’ is portrayed as somewhat dire. A sympathetic reader would wish they could jump within the pages, so they can console her and show her love- I know I wanted too.
Chapters five through to seven offer the reader the painstakingly slow development of the relationship between Bree and the child who is named Kaiti Mackena. Although this development is slow it doesn’t hold the plot back, on the contrary it makes the plot more exciting, as the events involving the Shona tribe evolve. What may have been an easy mess to avoid becomes a thrilling chase, which is all the more fuelled by Bree and Kaiti’s lack of understanding of each other. I thoroughly related to Bree’s stubbornness. In other novels I’ve often found stubborn characters infuriating, but it was the opposite in this case. I couldn’t wait to find out which would rule – her heart or her head.
The plot twist involving Nolgee, from the Shona tribe, is brilliantly written. I particularly enjoyed reading Holt’s well-crafted insights into the Shona tribes, and their way of life. Their predicament between the preservation of their way of life and their culture’s dictation for avenging the death of Taklishima; is similar to some of the political issues faced by today’s modern society. It makes reading the novel a more believable and relatable experience. The reader can choose a side without fear of judgement or prejudice and exciting consequences are guaranteed. The ensuing epic battle between the Shona, Bree, Becca and Kaiti; as well as the side battle of the black spirit guides versus the good spirit guides, is fast paced, action packed and thrilling to read. I just couldn’t put it down- the desire to know what happens next was so strong, and the suspense was built so expertly in previous chapters- I’m sure any reader would be the same.
Overall I loved reading The Spirit Child. It’s full of startling turn of events and fantastic characters. The content over all is detailed, fast paced, full of action and consistently well-written.
It will be interesting to read how Bree and Kaiti’s relationship develops, and how the impending danger from the Underworld rises to challenge our heroines. I’m truly looking forward to subsequent titles.
© Gemma Feltham 12th August 2013