Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan

Ashlee lives in the Citadel, a protected city where the survivors of the Plague have resettled after abandoning the world to hide in the Sanctuary.  It is a place protected by walls and guards, and where every living bird is killed on sight because they are the ones that brought the Plague.  It is not an easy way to live, the survivors live in the ruined houses of the dead, and scavenge for things left behind, but it is the only live that Ashlee can remember.  At first it was Ashlee, her father, her mother, and her brother, but now it is Ashlee, her father, her stepmother, stepsisters, and half brother.  While her father is away working for the city, Ashlee is left to the mercy of her stepmother and stepsisters - the classic modern day Cinderella. 

It is a world of order, a world where she knows what will happen - until the day the bird arrives.  When Ashlee discovers the beauty and wonder of a real life bird, she starts on a path that will end the only world she has known, a world where even though there is misery and struggle, everyone knows their place in that world.  As Ashlee travels further and further from home she discovers some truths that she wish had never been, and discovers some secrets that should have remained hidden.  Her world is on the brink of war, not with nature or a hidden enemy, but rather with itself as the survivors try and find a way to survive - no matter what the cost.

This is the second book by New Zealand author Heather McQuillan, who won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005, the winner of which has their first novel published by Scholastic New Zealand.  At the time I really enjoyed reading the story as it was a creative science fiction that was well written and avoided a lot of the cliches, and I have always hoped that McQuillan would write another novel for children - and she finally has.  Nest of lies was not quite as original as Mind over matter - partly because future worlds ravaged by plague, and dystopian themes are so prevalent at the moment - but that said, Nest of lies has a unique flavour that is missing from some of the other novels at the moment. 

Ashlee is a strong character that changes and grows over the course of the novel, and allows you to see a changing world through her eyes.  There are echoes of the places that once existed in her world, and unless I am mistaken the story is set in what is currently Christchurch (but that could be wrong, it is based on the place names).  There is an interesting blend of adventure and science fiction here, but also a few moments that show human nature, that people will be people even when there are only a few hundred or a few thousand people left.  One of the things I like and admire about this particular book is that while McQuillan does gentle-down some of the ideas, she doesn't dumb them down, something too many authors for children and teenagers do. 

This was an enjoyable read, and while there are not too many other novels in this same vein that I know of, I can recommend some other good books that readers of Nest of lies may also enjoy.

If you like this book then try:
  • Mind over matter by Heather McQuillan
  • Red eye by Susan Gates
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
  • Genesis by Bernard Beckett
  • Because we were the travellers by Jack Lasenby
  • The limit by Kritsin Landon
  • Under the mountain by Maurice Gee
  • Among the hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Reviewed by Brilla

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou for the review Brilla.
    You are right about the setting being my home of Christchurch.
    Sadly the house that I knew as Ashlee's home collapsed following the earthquake last year, just as the book was in its final editing stages.

    kind regards