Sunday, 24 April 2011

Review: Wintercraft: Blackwatch by Jenna Burtenshaw

Kate has escaped the clutches of the High Council and Silas has left Albion for the continent. But their lives are forever linked and as the veil weakens, causing Albion's skilled to fear for everyone's safety, Silas and Kate find themselves drawn together by the mysterious and corrupt Dalliah Grey.

Jenna Burtenshaw's debut novel Wintercraft was my Book of the Month back in May 2010 and I have been waiting impatiently for more from Ms Burtenshaw ever since. Whilst not finishing on a massive cliffhanger, the first book in the Wintercraft series did leave us with a number of unanswered questions concerning the immediate futures of two of its main characters - Kate Winter and Silas Dane. One year on from that book and we now have book  two, Wintercraft: Blackwatch, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The first book in the series was very much about introducing us to the brilliantly imagined world of Albion and the key players in the story, although at the time it didn't seem like a mere introduction as I found it to be a finely crafted "dark fantasy story that I just didn't want to end". It is a complete tale that could work as a standalone novel, written in an intelligent and beautifully flowing prose more often seen from much more experienced authors. Having now read the sequel however, Wintercraft now does seem like more of an introduction as in Blackwatch the author develops her world and two main characters so completely that by the end of this book I was so attached to them that I felt sick with nerves at the perils they found themselves facing. And then Ms Burtenshaw goes and leaves us with a massive cliffhanger at the end. Aaaaarrrgghh!

The story of Blackwatch has two definite paths that start off worlds apart, linked only by the mysteries of the veil, but gradually converge as the adventures of Kate Winter and Silas Dane gradually gravitate towards each other. Kate is on the run from The Skilled, wanted for complicity in the murder of one of their leaders in the previous book. She is accompanied by her only friend, the ever-loyal Edgar, and his companionship is vital to her well-being as her powers begin to manifest themselves more greatly and the pull of the veil becomes ever stronger. Silas Dane is also on the run, hunted by the legions of the High Council, and an overheard conversation sees him fleeing across the sea to the Continent, and straight into the hands of the Blackwatch, a highly skilled commando unit that have for years been the continent's main covert strike force in their ongoing war against Albion. For Silas it is very much a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, and with the power of the veil so far away maybe even he could be at risk from death this time.

Wintercraft: Blackwatch is a thrilling continuation to the story, with tight plotting and a skilfully varied pace that allows the reader to catch their breath between the frantic chase scenes. Kate Winter is a very strong female protagonist and fantasy-loving boys should love this story, and unlike many of the YA fantasy stories published these days there is not even a hint of a romantic element to this book. If you haven't yet read the first book in the series then you really should, and then go and get your hands on Blackwatch. My thanks go to the generous people at Headline for sending me this copy to review.

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