LONGLISTED FOR THE NORTH SOMERSET TEACHERS' BOOK AWARD MOVING ON CATEGORY
SF Said's Guardian review of David Rudden's "Knights of the Borrowed Dark" writes that it has the same knowingness about the fantasy world that his characters are plunged into as the work of Joss Whedon. Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire, Firefly and director of the Avengers films, always invested his characters with the ability to comment on their world while referencing the world of fantasy and popular culture. Rudden's does this successfully without detracting from the story.
Piers Torday, author of "The Last Wild", presented an insightful paper on what you needed to do to write children's fiction at the FCBG conference in April of the this year. Number 1 on his list was orphan the children: get rid of the parents to free the child/children for adventure. Rudden does this in his prologue which is set in...an orphanage! The title of the prologue is called "Tick" and it is a tick for Torday's Number 1 item on his instruction list for children's writing. As it is "Tick" refers to the story of our orphaned hero with the last chapter being called "Tock". So our hero, Denizen Hardwick, is an orphan waiting for a mysterious aunt to come and rescue him from his terrible orphanage and Director Ackerby. Denizen is rescued but only to be thrown into a magical world where the forces of light are battling shadows.
Rudden is essentially writing an origin story and origin stories are, in my opinion, always the most exciting part of a character's arc. Denizen trains and then joins the fight but when he is not quite ready. What works well in the book is the underlying humour even when things are truly terrifying. After one encounter with the enemy, Denizen delivers a killer one liner and the reflects on it: "Good grief. It was only a week into his career as a magician Knight and already he was starting the one-liners. At this rate, he'd be buying bandanas before the fortnight was out." What also works is the mixture of characters. Very much like in the work of Joss Whedon, there are no make-weight characters, They all drive the story and no one character gets the best lines.
There are some points in the book where you are not quite sure what the fight is for as it is not always light versus dark but more grey- but then it is war. Read the book to its "Tock" and the pieces fall into place.
Rudden's prose creates truly nightmarish situations that are not for the faint hearted. There is fear, humour, loyalty, betrayal and heart in this book; there is also a Jensen Interceptor! Seriously, any book that has a "night-black" Interceptor that sounds like the breathing of a prehistoric cat in it is worth reading! So, read it you should and look out for its sequel.
A great book for the 'Moving On' category, 'Knights of the Borrowed Dark' will appeal to boys and girls alike, particularly those who enjoy a darker read! Make sure you watch the trailer!
Knights of the Borrowed Dark Dave Rudden
Puffin ISBN: 978-0141356600