Descent, by Charlotte McConaghy

‘Do you realise that there is a serious problem here?’ Amara asked her parents angrily. ‘Don’t you understand what is happening to our people?’
‘Do not be so dramatic,’ her mother said, sighing.
Amara stared at them incredulously. ‘Listen to yourself! You lecture me on how I’m not fulfilling my duties as princess and not adhering to behavioural codes, when we stand in the face of a threat to everyone’s lives! Do you think your priorities might be a little mixed up? You are not doing your duty as High King and Queen! Our people need leaders-’…

…Outside time and consciousness, in a place far from the known world, a creature of malevolence was growing. And as it grew in strength, powered by remembrance and anger and hatred, so did it struggle.
The bindings that had been placed on it a thousand years before were strong, the banishment powerful, and yet all this time it was growing, feeding itself on thoughts of revenge, sustained in the knowledge that soon it would be free.

Descent is the second instalment in Charlotte McConaghy’s series ‘The Strangers of Paragor’. The ‘strangers’ of the series title are a close-knit group of teenagers from our world who via a portal find themselves in a new world where a cluster of kingdoms are held together via treaty. In Descent the final two of the six friends, Mia and Jack, arrive to find that even time passes at a different rate here. Their four friends, Luca, Jane, Anna and Harry have been here for more than two years, and are much changed. But it seems that the skills and potential of all the ‘strangers’ (also called ‘Bright Ones’) will be needed to help Paragor. They work alongside local princes, princesses and warriors to keep Paragor safe. Mia and Jack, particularly, have a great deal to learn about this land where dream-invaders swarm at darkness, alliances are made and unmade, good and evil are hard to tell apart and love is not always enough.

Descent is an epic adventure in an unfamiliar world and it is fitting that the viewpoint is omniscient. There are many strong characters here and all have their role to play and piece to say. There are old souls in young bodies, bitter revenge-seekers, grief-changed partners, young lovers and those unbearably changed by the challenges they’ve had to face. There are also deluded monarchs, winged creatures, dragons and elves. But amidst all the evil and danger, friendships are forged and/or strengthened and characters come to understand the role they have to play in this tumultuous world. It can be challenging to bring new readers to a series-in-progress, but Descent reads well as a stand-alone story. That said, it may well encourage readers to seek out ‘Arrival’, the first title in the series. Recommended for mid-secondary readers, particularly fans of paranormal or speculative fiction.

Descent, Charlotte McConaghy
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031279

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