"Dark fantasy from an award-winning author"
Frances Hardinge always produces books that are very readable and fascinating in equal measure. Her newest The Unraveller is exactly that – set in a strange culture where a race of spider like creatures, the Little Brothers, have given the citizens of Raddith the ability to cast a curse on the people they hate. These curses can be quite mild or could be horrific – turning a child into a cloud for instance.
Kellen is the only person who can ‘unravel’ curses – in the way one would unravel a piece of cloth, gathering all the threads together and un-weaving them. Kellen has a strong temper he can’t control, and after annoying his latest client he is only rescued from prison by a strange one-eyed horseman who offers a job in exchange for his protection. Having little option, Kellen accepts, he is accompanied by Nettle, his long-time companion since he rescued her from a curse as a heron. Together they set off, an odd, assorted group, to try to find a secret organisation, to stop the cursing that goes on. Throughout this the characters of the protagonists are tried in many ways – physical and mental, their courage is tested, their friendships tried to the very limits.
The plot contains wonderful characters, some strange and violent reveals, and a fair bit of blood and violence. It grabs you from the start due to the strangeness of the world and the intrigue hidden here. Kellen is not always likeable, but he does try, Nettle is wonderfully loyal and level-headed, and their friendship goes through different cycles as they adventure together. There is a fairy-tale/myth feel to much of the story – but due to the subject matter, the dark and twists of the plot, plus its occasional violence it must be recommended for teens – and it definitely is heartily recommended.