Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

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In lyrical writing, Costa Award winning author Frances Hardinge takes us into a unique world where 'The Little Brothers', sentient spider like creatures, give people the ability to curse those they hate or who have caused them harm. Kellen is a teenager who can unravel those curses, and had helped Nettle and her brother who had been cursed into birds by their stepmother. However his ability is beginning to come apart as fabric around him unravels and he realises that he too has been cursed. When he and Nettle are approached by Gall the owner of a vicious Marsh Horse to investigate Salvation a group that is spiriting away cursers, they embark on a dangerous quest. It takes them into the mysterious Wild here terrifying creatures haunt the waters and the Moonlit Market.

Although lengthy, some 481 pages, it was easy to become totally immersed in the world that Hardinge describes in detail. She also explores layers of complexity in her themes. Are some actions bad enough to justify cursing? are the cursers evil? What happens to those whose curses are unravelled and how do they cope? What is the difference between feeling anger toward someone and hating them? Both Kellen and Nettle, in amongst their exciting adventures, must come to grips with the ways that cursing and unravelling have affected them.

With wonderful world building, unique characters, an unexpected villain and cruel creatures, Unraveller is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy complex fantasy. They may enjoy Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy by D.M. Cornish.

Themes: Fantasy, Adventure, Friendship, Monsters, Curses.

Pat Pledger