Welcome to Dead Town, Raven McKay
Eibhlís Carcione’s debut children’s novel is a fantasy firmly grounded in human emotions. After Raven McKay’s parents disappear, she moves to Grave’s Pass to live with a distant relative. In this mysterious town the living and the dead live side by side. Raven is fascinated by Dead Town, with its ghosts, zombies and pooka horses. Unfortunately, danger is not far away and she must uncover the mystery of the black butterfly.
Carcione develops the characters skilfully. Raven is a convincing schoolgirl, longing for companions and to have her family back. Her new friends and enemies spring to life on the page. The complexities of growing up, with the age-old themes of wishing for independence and adventure are explored. The dangers and consequences of this self-determination are unflinchingly depicted and woven cleverly into the tantalising storyline. The narrative also examines the temptation and abuse of power and the vulnerability of those who have little influence. Discrimination and the dangers of judging by first impressions, both positive and negative, are a driving force of the plot. The pace picks up as the story progresses and the novel concludes with a satisfying climax.
Beniak-Haremska’s stunning gothic illustrations complement the text perfectly and add to the eerie atmosphere of the novel. The Irishness of the setting shines through in the vivid descriptions and the dialogue. I would recommend this book to confident readers in the pre-teen age group who have a taste for exciting fantasy novels with an Irish backdrop.