Reader Reviewed A Cage of Roots by Matt Griffin

A Cage of Roots

Written by Matt Griffin
Part of the The Ayla Trilogy Series

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

March 2015 Debut of the Month An astonishingly different and chillingly striking tale that envelops the pages in a cloak of darkness and mystery. The author hurls the reader straight into the middle of the story, waiting before making introductions and explaining friendships, which effectively ensures you feel Ayla’s shock at the unknown world she finds herself in. The friendship and bravery of the children on their quest holds a torch of light to the fear, the author leaves you on the brink of doubt as you literally will the light to stay true and strong. The scarily real illustrations reach out as pages are turned, knowing that they come directly from the authors mind, as he is the illustrator, connects them even more strongly to the story. This has the feeling of a modern fairy tale about it, full of the scarily weird and vibrantly wonderful, as you turn the last page you are left standing on the edge of wanting more! ~ Liz Robinson

A Piece of Passion from the editor Susan Houlden Every once in a while a first chapter lands on your desk that is simply compelling. Matt Griffin’s A Cage of Roots opens with orphan Ayla discovering herself trapped deep beneath the ground, in total darkness, with no idea of how she came to be there. We are instantly drawn into this epic fantasy adventure, and soon we meet Ayla’s mysterious giant uncles and her closest friends, Sean, Finny and Benvy, who set out together to rescue Ayla.
What follows is a magical blend of this world and an ancient past. Old Irish figures rise up as the magic that lies beneath our feet and in our landscape stirs into life. Ayla and her friends face pure evil in a life-and-death quest. Matt creates some truly demonic and terrifying creatures, and he plays on our fears and hopes as he spins his tale of deep, dark secrets, awakening powers, betrayal, tests of true character and friendship, and ultimate destinies.
As a graphic illustrator, Matt has added rich atmospheric images to each chapter. His storytelling style is fast-paced, hugely imaginative and, at times, humourous. A book to read well beyond midnight.

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can read their full reviews by clicking here.

  • Gabriel Phelan, age 11 - 'a very gripping, exciting and magical novel. It is very intriguing and a real page-turner.'
  • Henry Smith, age 10 - 'An exciting and thrilling book that will keep you gripped until the last page!'
  • Martin, age 10 - 'Very atmospheric, dark and spooky. The opening chapter gripped me and then the later ones scared me - don't read it alone and in the dark!'
  • Sylvie Williams, age 9 - 'If you like stories to be dark, slightly scary and include legends and magic, you will love this book!'
  • Amie Coffman, age 11 - 'The story was very exciting and I was eager to read to the end to find out Ayla’s fate. The story was original and the illustrations fantastic!'
  • Shannon McCloskey - 'I loved this story, I had not read this author before but I will look out for more from him.'
  • Tom White, age 11 - 'Scary, Creepy, Amazing!'
  • Sue Wilsher - 'Full of mystery and magic, ‘A Cage of Roots’ is a story rich in Irish folk law and legend...A book for older children, particularly those who enjoy a thrill of fear!'
  • Eleanor Cookdale, age 10 - 'It was a satisfying ending but open ended and I hope there will be another book to tell you what happened.'
  • Fiona Sutherland, age 11 - 'This book was really tense but some the Irish names threw me a little bit. At the end I really wanted to find out what would happen next.'


A Cage of Roots by Matt Griffin

Magic exists beneath our feet, if we only know where to look...

Growing up in a New York orphanage, Ayla has no idea who her family is. It is not until she comes to Ireland that she finds out just how deep her roots really are. Then her past rises up to haunt her and seeks to destroy her as Ayla is abducted and buried alive in the bowels of the earth. Above ground, her three best friends set out to find and save her from a fate that has been lying in wait for centuries. Guided by Ayla's uncles, they must make a treacherous journey that takes them down among the very roots of time.


‘captivating … if you are going to get lost in a book, this is a fine choice ... the author’s atmospheric illustrations must be mentioned, which add immensely to the potent mysticism. All in all, this is an excellent midnight read’ Inis Magazine

About the Author

Matt Griffin

Matt Griffin was born in Dublin in 1979 and grew up in Kells, Co. Meath. After a brief attempt at third level education he spent eight years in London working in the media, before moving home to Ireland in 2008 to pursue his dream of becoming a fulltime illustrator. Since then he has garnered a reputation as one of the most eclectic graphic artists in contemporary illustration, collecting awards and accolades for his work in publishing, advertising and, in particular, the field of poster art. His passion for visual design was always married to one for writing.

This is his first novel. Matthew lives in Ennis, Co. Clare, with his wife Orla and daughters Holly & Chloe.

A Q+A with Matt Griffin

Well, I was a huge fan of creative writing as a young kid up until my late teens (and I had a great teacher), but as I got older it fell by the wayside. In my 20s I worked as a music journalist for a while, and so kept my toe in the writing water. For my entire life, however, I have had stories buzzing in my mind, and when The O’Brien Press encouraged me to develop one, I fell in love with creative writing again. Now I’m sure not I’ll be able to stop…

No I didn’t give it to anyone! I am not someone who enjoys showing work-in-progress - I prefer to show the finished product, when I’m happy with it. So the only people who read it in it’s infant stages were the guys at O’Brien Press, and in particular my editor Susan, who helped me to hone my skills and produce something more than just an idea. I was extremely lucky in that I wasn’t writing it with the intention of sending it out in hope to publishers. The entire thing was created under their stewardship.

Q: Where did the idea come from for A Cage of Roots?

A walk in the woods! Well, there was a little more to it… Emma Byrne, the art director at O’Brien with whom I was working as a colorist on a graphic novel, asked me if I had any stories of my own - and could see that I might like to do something dark, and something that might involve Irish myth in some way. She had great foresight, because that was exactly the type of story I’d love! So I went for a walk (something I always do when I need to think) and in the woods at Lee’s Road in Ennis, came up with the idea that would become A Cage of Roots.

Q: Were you a fan of reading fantasy and horror books as a child?

Yes - I absolutely loved them. I was a voracious reader from a very young age, and pretty much all of it was dark fantasy. I have always had a penchant for the macabre. If I tried to create something light and fluffy, I would probably still scare people.

It was always on my bucket list, but it was pushed down the pecking order because it just seemed so unattainable. Instead, I concentrated on becoming a professional illustrator and let writing disappear from my life. I was incredibly lucky that O’Brien Press pushed me back in that direction. How they had the foresight to see me as a writer I’ll never know, but it must have involved some form of witchcraft. Q: What advice can you give would-be children's authors in getting published?

Make a gargantuan effort to hone your skills, learn your craft, improve. Getting there easily is the exception not the rule - it takes a vast amount of dedication and work.

So, in a nutshell - write. Draw. Make. No more thinking about it - just go for it! And realise that it takes time…

Q: Where and when do you write?

Now I have an office, so I’ll be writing the next book there. Even when I don’t feel like it.

Q: Favourite place in the world and why?

Q: If you could have any superpower for a day what would it be and why?

A tough one, and maybe a strange answer. But I’d love the ability to transport myself to other worlds. To click my fingers and be on Titan or Mars or another galaxy, and able to explore without a suit. I guess with the imagination, that power is not quite as unattainable as you might think. I am quite capable of disappearing off to other places in my head!

Q: Apart from writing and illustrating what are your passions?

In a hobby-sense, music and movies. I have always been very passionate about music, and I love a good movie just as much as I love a good book. In terms of life-passions - my wife and two daughters, my family and friends. I’m very lucky with all of them…

10 things you didn't know about Matt Griffin
• I spent the first 4 years of my life in America, and had an American accent until I was about 10. They called me Yankee Doodle in primary school as a result. Ayla shares the same beginnings (albeit as an orphan).
• My first love is music, and I was an avid guitar player and song-writer. But I suffer from huge stage fright when it comes to performing! So I’ve let that fall away too, much to my own disappointment.
• I wanted to follow my brother Luke into acting at one point. I won a couple of prizes in school. But I didn’t have the immense bottle it takes to be an actor. That profession is for the truly brave.
• I spent a year in Australia in 2001, and at one point hitched from Melbourne to Sydney. It took two days and was an absolutely insane adventure. Someday I may have to write about it.
• I used to work for Channel 4 Music, and interviewed a lot of famous musicians. My first was Shaun Ryder (lead singer from The Happy Mondays & Black Grape). It didn’t go well.
• I lived in London for 8 years, 3 of which were on a boat, in a scrapyard. During one particularly harsh winter, I had no running water. So for three months I showered with a 2 litre Coke bottle of ice-cold water from the tap outside (as long as it wasn’t frozen). I loved boat-life.
• I am a huge armchair sports fan. I support Meath in gaelic football, Clare in the hurling, Leinster in rugby and Chelsea in the Premier League (and always look out for Brentford too. It’s where the boat was). But I’m falling out of love with the soccer I must admit. Too much diving and cheating.
• I love swimming in the sea, with my Dad, no matter what the weather. We have gone out in some pretty blustery conditions, with a lot of bemused onlookers. Nothing else clears the cobwebs like it.
• I am never, ever, satisfied with my own work for longer than a minute or two. This drives me, and helps me to improve. But it drives those around me to distraction.

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Book Info


240 pages


Matt Griffin
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O'Brien Press Ltd

Publication date

2nd March 2015




Publisher Profile

O'Brien Press Ltd is an imprint of O'Brien


The O'Brien Press is Ireland's leading general publisher of both adult and children's books. Our list covers a huge range, including biography, humour, photography, history, art, fiction, politics, cookery, sport, music, memoir, true crime and travel and we are constantly expanding into new and exciting areas.

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