Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Red Rocks by Rachael King

Jake has been staying in Wellington with his father for the school holidays.  He is enjoying the time away from his mother, his stepfather, and his new little half brother, but his dad sometimes seems a little like the absent minded professor and Jake is spending a lot of time alone.  On one of his adventures near the Red Rocks Jake crawls into a nearly invisible cave and finds a beautiful seal skin, a skin that appears untouched by time or decay.  Once he touches it Jake knows he has to take it home, but once he removes the seal skin from the cave he sets in motion a dangerous course of events.

The seal skin is not just any seal skin, it is the skin of a selkie, and by taking the skin Jake has not only cursed the selkie to walk the land until the skin is returned, but he has also created a connection between his family and the selkie.  It seems like a made up story, and Jake is skeptical as soon as Jessie tells him the story, but as time passes Jake realises that there is more to Jessie - and the story - than he thought.  Determined to fix the mistake he has made, Jake is in a race against time (and it appears, fate) to get the seal skin back to the selkie who do anything to get her skin back.

Red Rocks was a surprising little read, partly because it has taken a traditional story from mainly Celtic mythology and translated it to a modern New Zealand setting - and it treats that tradition with a surprising amount of respect.  The characters are not particularly well fleshed out, but that fits with the fast paced action of the story, and the focal point of the story is definitely Jake.  In many ways Red Rocks blends together a coming of age story and a story of self discovery, with a tipping point story where Jake is old enough to understand the consequences of his actions, but is also young enough to believe quite quickly that there is more to the world than he can understand.  In a lot of ways there is also an element of a child who is coming to terms with the fact that since his parents divorce his mother has moved on and started creating a new life for herself. and that his father is looking for something too, or more accurately someone.

This was a nice little break from reality, a little adventure mixed in with some drama, set in a setting that could be New Zealand, but could also be somewhere else.  Experiencing the story alongside Jake makes it more accessible, and his personal viewpoints help you to understand the mythology in a modern setting.

If you like this book then try:
  • The Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • A gift from Winklesea by Helen Cresswell
  • Nest of lies by Heather McQuillan
  • The water horse by Dick King-Smith
  • Pangur ban the white cat by Fay Sampson
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner

Reviewed by Brilla

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