The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver

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In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka . . .

Sea-churning, beast-chattering, dream-dancing, whale-riding, terrodyl-flying, world-saving adventure. 

The best book I have read all year, The Huntress reminded me of why I want to write for children and filled my heart with longing for more of Mouse’s world and adventures. Sarah Driver has written the book she wanted to read and it is epic.

The Huntress: Sea is a middle-grade novel and the first in a trilogy. It tells the story of Mouse’s first adventure on perilous, icy seas, fighting to save her brother and crew from a villain who wants to take Mouse’s place as future captain of The Huntress. It’s vivid, colourful, mythical and action-packed.

Sarah Driver has dreamt up an incredible world, inspired in part by research in Iceland. Trianukka is inhabited by different tribes and creatures such as the evil terrodyls whose blood will burn holes in your skin, moonsprites who are created from drops of moonlight that escape lanterns and whales whose songs keep the terrodyls away and shine bright and blue in the air.  She’s created an entire culture complete with language, beliefs and traditions that is so authentic it could be real. I loved the descriptions of all of these and of life on board a ship. This is a place for fur cloaks, seal-skins, golden eggs and heavy chests of precious stones.

The language used by those aboard The Huntress is unique in its structure- heart-gladness, fear-scratched -, almost a type of dialect that belongs to Mouse and her people. Mouse is an incredible protagonist and made me laugh out loud. She’s scrawny and brave and sometimes brash and overconfident, as many young teenagers are. Another favourite character was Mouse’s hard as nails grandmother and captain and their tough-love relationship. “Mouse! Get down from there or I’ll shoot ye down, little fool!”

The book is full of beautiful, individual ideas like the idea that ships have souls, that a small boy can sing to whales and ask them to guide his ship, and that the will of the sea-gods can be found in the aurora. Even more irresistible is that Mouse has the beast-chatter and can communicate with the creatures of Trianukka.

There are so many more brilliant aspects to this novel that I won’t reveal, but you can purchase it and discover them for yourself here. The next book in the trilogy is out in September and is available for pre-order here. A novel reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but still unlike anything I’ve read before, it will set children’s imaginations on fire.

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