Winner: Young Readers - Middle Grade
Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the Booksellers Association, said: “From first time authors to literary giants, this year’s Books Are My Bag Readers Awards winners give an insight into bookseller’s and the public’s top books of the year. It’s hugely exciting to see such a large proportion of new writers on the list, showing just how much brilliant new writing talent readers have to enjoy.”
If you are looking for some higher-than-average-brow fiction to slip into your nine to 12-year-old child's beach bag this summer, then bingo...Doyle is a supremely confident writer who manages to embrace some of fantasy's most familiar tropes while never quite letting us feel that we've been here before. This is a book that should have any child glued to their deckchair.
The gradual unveiling of each vivid detail is enchanting. While it is based on Irish mythology, it is approachable without any prior knowledge and reminded me rather of Alan Garner’s treatment of Welsh mythos in The Owl Service. This is a tale that requires reading stamina as it hops back and forth through time, peeling back memories and events over the course of hundreds of years. We would recommend it to strong readers in Year 5 and upwards – and we can’t wait to find out what happens in the sequel!
Doyle is a dab hand at present-day sniping between siblings and takes a very original route around a magical plotline, in which Fionn’s grandfather holds the evil sorceress Morrigan at bay with candles full of memories – for now. Readers will hand over their disbelief gladly.
The magic of Arranmore island is truly unique, as is the ability for Fionn and his grandfather to revisit different layers – or points in the island’s history – by burning candles made from previous Storm Keepers. Readers will be swept away by the setting and atmosphere of Arranmore as Fionn discovers its history and secrets, leading to a dramatic ending that will leave children clambering for book two.
Doyle is the author of YA trilogy Blood for Blood but her Middle Grade debut is something of a revelation. Inspired by the real-life Arranmore Island and her own family history it's a spellbinding adventure with enormous heart, a story of family, memory, courage and sacrifice interlaced with Irish myths and legends. Relationships are drawn with real tenderness, the atmospheric island setting oozes darkness and drama, the adventure has high stakes and the magic feels entirely real. I absolutely loved it.