Review Blog

Mar 17 2020

Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner

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The Fire Watcher Chronicles book 2 Scholastic, 2020. ISBN: 9781742994284. 272pp.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. What's not to love about a fascinating time slip novel set in the London blitz and Lundenwic, where the Saxons are facing an invasion by the Vikings? Fans of both historical novels and adventure fantasy will really enjoy the story of Christopher who owns an ancient phoenix ring and an anchor pendant which have the ability to send him into the past at times when London is facing devastation by fire.
Gardiner makes it easy for new readers of the series to catch up with a brief summary of what happened in the first book Brimstone, as well as reminding others of the main characters and adventure. The historical background to London in both time periods is engrossing. The descriptions of the London Blitz and Christopher's bravery as a firewatcher and as a messenger between fire outbreaks from bombs really brings the horror of the bombings to life. And when Christopher time slips to the ruined Roman London with Lundenwic, with its wooden buildings just across the Thames, he meets the Vikings and readers will be holding their breath as Christopher plays the part of Loki the trickster in an effort to stay alive. The humour of the dialogue will bring smiles to readers' faces as he tries to joke his way out of danger.
Gardiner's exploration of the role of women and race during war is subtle and interesting. Christopher's father has come home from the war badly injured and finds a different place with women taking on many roles which he at first finds difficult to understand. Christopher's Mum is a brave firefighter and women like Christopher's teacher are taking on the war effort. What was of most interest to me was in Gardiner's Author's note she writes about research showing that there were women who were Viking warriors and her portrayal of Longsword and the Saxon girl Elda add to knowledge of life in London over a thousand years ago.
This is a very exciting middle grade series that is carefully researched, and Christopher's thrilling adventures will keep the reader totally engrossed. I can't wait for the next in the series.
Pat Pledger

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