Monday 3 January 2022

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare #TheBookOfSand @TheoClare1 @centurybooksuk #BookReview


SAND. A hostile world of burning sun.

Outlines of several once-busy cities shimmer on the horizon. Now empty of inhabitants, their buildings lie in ruins.

In the distance a group of people - a family - walk towards us.

Ahead lies shelter: a 'shuck' the family call home and which they know they must reach before the light fails, as to be out after dark is to invite danger and almost certain death.

To survive in this alien world of shifting sand, they must find an object hidden in or near water. But other families want it too. And they are willing to fight to the death to make it theirs.

It is beginning to rain in Fairfax County, Virginia when McKenzie Strathie wakes up. An ordinary teenage girl living an ordinary life - except that the previous night she found a sand-lizard in her bed, and now she's beginning to question everything around her, especially who she really is ...

Two very different worlds featuring a group of extraordinary characters driven to the very limit of their endurance in a place where only the strongest will survive.

The Book of Sand by Theo Clare is published in hardback by Century on 6 January 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Theo Clare is the name that the late Mo Hayder chose to write The Book of Sand, the first in a fantasy trilogy. I have to admit that this story really took me out of my comfort zone, I very rarely read fantasy fiction and am not best placed to compare this with others from the genre. However, I was intrigued enough to continue to read this and there is no doubt that it is an incredible achievement. The writing pulls the reader in, it is such a cleverly created story, with characters who entranced me at times.

It's a huge book, the hardback copy has 600 pages and I do think that I would have preferred it to be cut a little, but I know that fantasy readers love a fat juicy tome and I think the target audience for this will love it. 

The story begins with two separate time lines. The first is set in 'the sand', where a group of people who consider themselves a family, although not related are trekking through a desert. Each member of this family is created well, with their own thoughts and background memories for the reader to learn about. 

In an alternative time line, Mackenzie, a young American girl spends time in her bedroom, visited by lizard like creatures, becoming obsessed by the elements of the desert and worrying her family. 

I had no idea how these two stories would blend together, but they do, in the end and it's really quite cleverly done. 

There's such a lot to take in throughout this novel. Whole new worlds to learn about, and to remember and a plot that often veers toward the spiritual. It's a book that obviously took a long time to create and one that needs a lot of concentration, it's something of a challenge at times. 

However, I'm not a regular fantasy reader, and it's fair to say that my experience of this book will differ from that of others. I'm certainly glad that I read it, it's been something of an adventure! 

THEO CLARE left school at fifteen. 

She worked as a barmaid, security guard, filmmaker, hostess in a Tokyo club, educational administrator and teacher of English as a foreign language in Asia. 
She had an MA in film from The American University in Washington, DC and an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University, UK. 

She wrote crime novels under the name Mo Hayder, and her fifth novel Ritual was nominated for the Barry Award for Best Crime 2009 and was voted Best Book of 2008 by Publishers Weekly. 
Gone, her seventh novel, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, and her novel Wolf was nominated for Best Novel in the 2015 Edgar Awards and is currently being adapted for the BBC. 

Set primarily in an alternate universe, her most recent novel, The Book of Sand, is published posthumously in early 2022. 

Theo Clare was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2020 and passed away in July 2021. 

She leaves behind a husband and daughter, a powerful legacy of books, and an incredible number of people who loved and admired her.

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