In this futuristic page-turner, the world is flooded after the Rising of the waters, and ruled over by the sinister Terra Firma and its ruthless leader, Chilstone. Fenn Halflin is a Seaborn, rescued as a baby after the capture and murder of his rebel parents and, even now more than a decade later, Chilstone’s giant ship, the Fearzero, continues to hunt him down. When Fenn reluctantly leaves the safety of his adoptive grandfather’s home, he must flee across the vast sea, seeking what little shelter there is.
Wearing its grim environmental warning lightly, the world Armour-Chelu has created is rich, evocative and utterly absorbing – we are thrust into Fenn’s world from the very first paragraph, and don’t look back. Particularly memorable is Fenn’s time on the Shanties, the old, creaking, metal structures jutting out of the sea where the Seaborn and an assortment of Dickensian undesirables are consigned, and children can eke out a living selling rats, or their teeth. It is during his first night here that Fenn watches as the Roustabouts, spider-like humanoids who descend to the lower levels to hunt for food, soundlessly clamber onto a large metal container and remove its lid to scoop up its sleeping occupant and carry him off into the night, leaving the reader as mutely terrified as our hero (it is this scene, above all others, which may push this book from a 10+ to a 12+ readership).
Yet in the midst of this horror, relief comes in the form of Fenn’s relationship with his grandfather, and then his growing friendships with some of the other young people on the Shanties, and with his pet mongoose, Tikki. And Fenn’s resourcefulness when his friends’ lives are at risk gives us a glimpse of what he’s really capable of, and of what is to come in further books in the series. A story that is perfect for adaptation to the big screen, make sure you read the book first!