The chime seekers by Ross Montgomery
Ross Montgomery, master storyteller, takes his readers into the realm of faeries, in this case, Hallowfall, in his latest page-turning fantasy novel for ages 8+. In The chime seekers, depths of horror, dangerous quests, wicked trickery and grotesque, evil creatures from the hinterland are faced down by the protagonists: Yanni, Amy and a changeling. Montgomery doesn't shrink from presenting the reader with vile characters and settings.Thankfully, humour and cleverness lightens the load.
Faeries spring from ancient folktales and myths of England and Ireland. They are otherworldly, unpredictable, evil, unfriendly and dangerous. From neolithic times, (Montgomery places a dolmen reeking with evil portent in the village) people have believed that faeries carry off children to worlds resembling pre-Christian abodes of the dead. Montgomery does not spare the reader the horror of such things as piles of bones, ghostly galleons, ghostly skeletons and rivers and oceans of blood. These worlds are made of all the nastiness and tears that fall from the human world. When Yanni, on All Hallow's Eve (when the veil is thin between the human and faerie world), says to his new baby sister, 'I hate you and I wish you were dead...' that's when everything changes. The room shifts, Lorde Renwin, the most powerful of all the evil faeries enters, takes baby Ari and substitutes her with a changeling. Yanni, the previously nasty, angry little boy who had been feeling unloved and unwanted is plummeted into a quest to enter Hallowfall and try to retrieve his sister before All Hallow's is over and the way back into the human world closes forever.
Yanni is set three tasks by Lord Renwin. Against all the odds, he and his increasingly close knit 2 friends achieve each task only to have Lord Renwin shift the goal posts. This most evil of all faeries has no moral compass and Yanni has to find all the courage that is within him plus practise a little trickery himself. On the way he learns how to discern what is worth fighting even to the death for and what has to be let go.
The chime seekers has the neat text structure of a quest. The cover and interior illustrations by David Dean (award-winning children's illustrator) perfectly match the timing, content and tone of the story. Detailed drawings of the gnarled trees, HallowFall, the twisted tower, the signpost, Gustiver, the raven, the toad, the faeries and goblins are beautifully depicted on the back and front cover together with the children and the changeling. Each major section of the quest is opened with a whole page illustration which cleverly signposts the coming events and, when viewed as a whole sequence, reveal the pattern of the story. Being a quest, the structure is circular and ultimately perfectly satisfactory.
Montgomery has given us, in The chime seekers, a contribution to children's literature beginning with a capital L. Perhaps the alert to that came right at the start with the quote from W. B Yeats 'The Stolen Child'...
Come away, O human child!
To the water, and the wild
With a faerie, hand in hand...
The chime seekers would work as a class novel as a highly engaging read aloud and as a springboard for delving into the ancient world of faery tales and mythology - an imaginative world that has been neglected for some time in the lives of our young people.
Themes: Magic, Faeries, Siblings, Courage.