Saturday 7 July 2012

Shadow Runners

Shadow Runners  Shadow Runners by Daniel Blythe, cover design by Steve Wells (Chicken House) 
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 1906427801

Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Shadow Runners is immediately appealing. The cover design shows a young woman’s face, shrouded in fiery light and the silhouettes of five teenagers standing on a hilltop below, backlit by purple skies and lightning. The blurb tells of Miranda, the new kid in town, who is drawn towards a group of social fringe dwellers who seem to know and understand the weird things she begins to experience in this normally uneventful town she dubs ‘Dullsville’.

Miranda, her mother and baby brother have moved here from London after the death of her TV presenter father. There’s a lot to get used to. Miranda is supposedly only twelve years old, but I found her character to be closer to sixteen, based upon her language, maturity and interactions with other characters. Also the cover shows a girl of about that age, which probably threw me off. But, that is a minor thing. Shadow Runners keeps you turning the pages, long into the wee hours, just to find out how Miranda is coping with the strange challenges thrust upon her whilst trying to come to terms with her beloved father’s death.

There’s a bunch of misfit kids at school who seem to know a lot about Miranda. They’re not perturbed by the bizarre dreams she keeps having, the mournful tunes in her head and the terrifying visual representations which start to haunt her daylight hours too. Her only friend is the dark, tortured orphan, Jade, who has lots of secrets of her own. Does that mean she can’t be trusted? It turns out Miranda’s mother, a therapist and healer, has passed down extraordinary abilities to her daughter, which Miranda’s rebellious nature refuses to acknowledge as being real and rational.

A teacher from school, Miss Bellini, is the only adult Miranda can turn to. And she’s the leader of this group of cosmic super sleuths, who battle against the forces of darkness threatening to engulf this modern seaside town, where links to events in its ancient past swarm forwards in time. In order to stop a malevolent character, reborn time after time, from taking over Miranda’s body, Miranda must battle forces she is just starting to believe in. Ancient evil. Dark spirits. It’s all a bit dramatic! But Miranda finds strength and comfort in the most unlikely places in this story of self-discovery and personal triumph. Teens will love Blythe’s hip language and sarcastic sense of humour. There’s plenty of good solid characters to believe in and an ending that leaves the reader wanting more.

Dawn Meredith is a May Gibbs Fellow and an author living in the Blue Mountains.

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