The Rift by Rachael Craw

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781760650025.
Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy. Fitting in. When Meg Archer returns to Black Water Island after being away for nine years, she discovers that the Island is facing danger from the Rift. Her mother had taken her to the mainland after an accident had left her and her friend Cal scarred and traumatised. Cal is now a Ranger and trying very hard to fit in with the elite group who have guarded the Old Herd from the Rift for generations. When it opens, death follows and both Cal and Meg have a role to play in protecting the Island and the Old Herd.
Fans of Maggie Stiefvater and Garth Nix will relish this offering from Craw whose world building is unforgettable. Black Island has a mixture of real world buildings and people who carry on daily activities that are familiar, while there is a barracks of highly trained Rangers who guard the sacred deer. Ley lines cross the island and myths and legends abound about the nature of the Rift and the Old Herd.
Craw's characters too are really memorable and the reader will easily sympathise with Cal's difficulties of fitting in with Rangers who have been born to the task, while he has come from humble fisherman beginnings. He has been given the Rift sight, but struggles with knowing what to do, while not helped by Sargent, Meg's father and a very hard task master. Meg on the other hand has spent her life on the mainland, training to be as fit as possible in the hope that she could become a Ranger and join her father, even against her mother's wishes. The slow burning relationship between the pair will satisfy fans who enjoy some romance. However what will keep the reader engrossed is the complex plot, the action and the coming of age story of both Cal and Meg as they struggle to keep the herd safe from the hunters who want them for a new drug.
This was a stunning, original stand-alone story with a gripping narrative, strange world and heroic characters. Fans of The rift will, like me, want to discover other books by Rachael Craw.
Pat Pledger