Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Chasing the Valley

Chasing the Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9781742759548
Also available as an ebook
ISBN 9781742759555
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness

With comparisons to Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games, Skye Melki-Wegner’s first published book Chasing the Valley has a lot to live up to. And that’s where the doubt ends. As soon as I started reading Chasing the Valley I was seduced by the inventive, gripping storytelling and by the calibre of protagonist and storyteller, 16 year-old Danika Glynn.

Told in first person, it’s Danika’s story. She is a scruffer, a homeless teen whose parents were killed during raids on her town by King Morrigan of Taladia. Like any despot, the king keeps his people subservient. His means are unorthodox. He uses alchemy bombs dropped from biplanes that are ‘loaded with spellwork and magic tokens that burst like confetti through the streets.’

As Danika hides in the sewer to escape the latest bombing, she happens upon a group of teens planning an escape. It’s a crew of five, and Danika is not welcome. Their aim is to escape to the sanctuary of the Magnetic Valley. Its hillsides are lined with magnetic rocks that interfere with the magic dropped by the King’s biplanes.

Each teenager develops a proclivity in the form of a tattoo. It is symbolic of the powers they can use in their future, be it wind, water, flame, darkness. Danika proves herself invaluable as the crew escapes when she uses her past as an illusionist, along with her ingenuity, but everything comes at a price. As the refugee crew makes its way to the Magnetic Valley they are pursued by the King’s hunters. There are many graphic scenes, as nothing will stop their reign of terror.

So many questions set up. When the crew finds the King’s biplane wrecked in the forest, why is the pilot missing? Why were the alchemy bombs still attached? And who is the mysterious traveller Lukas, the boy with alchemy charms around his neck and the proclivity of a bird?

This dystopian fantasy has themes of survival, heroism, magic, betrayal and a touch of romance. It’s a riveting read for teens and almost teens. Author, Skye Melki-Wegner’s star is rising and I can’t wait to read the next two in her stellar trilogy.

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