Pin and Cam were grinding wheat for flour when Da came in, his arms full of lettuces.
‘Eh-oh.’ Da straightened his arms and the lettuces tumbled onto the table. ‘Do you look at this.’
Pin looked – ‘Euuw!’ – and moved back. The outer leaves were full of holes. When Da pulled them back, inside were tiny, baby snails, smaller than Pin’s little fingernail. ‘Look at the mess they’ve made.’
The lettuces, thought Pin, looked like a tattered green lace.
‘You ought to see it out there. It’s a plague of them. Aye, even the thrushes cannot keep up. No one minds a bit of meat to their greens but we’ll have no greens left for market soon, and then how will we pay the new Lord’s taxes?’
The fourth century world of Pin, Cam and their family is a harsh one. War has just been fought and Cam, of all the village fighters, is the only man to return. And he returns with only one arm. Cam has previously been betrothed to Graceful, but her family are not willing for them to be married now he has returned with his injury. Cam is unsure where he fits in this post-war world. The Uplanders defeated the Downlanders and the world is changing. There is a new Lord and he and his son, Gyaar are gradually establishing a new order. Rather than one clear main character – although Cam certainly has a strong role – Bloodflower is an ensemble piece. It weaves together the lives of a range of characters, much as the Downlanders layer the flax for making linen. The story takes place over about a decade or so, and is mainly set in the village of Kayforl and the walled town of Dorn-Lannet in a country with a mild summer and a snowy winter.
Bloodflower looks like a fantasy – the cover has a warrior arm set against blood red cloth. The map of the countryside and the list of characters reinforces this, with unfamiliar names. The language of the people is different too and establishes a sense of being elsewhere in another time. Birth and death dates locate Bloodflower in the late 300’s to early 400’s and this gives rise to the feeling that it could also be considered historical fiction. There are several strong storylines threading through: Pin, Cam’s much younger sister; Ban, his childhood friend; Graceful, the Master’s daughter; Gyaar the Uplander Lord’s son, Diido, a girl from the camp. All have a place to play, all have their time moving the narrative along. There are coming of age storylines, romance, adventure, family and more…all the various, interlinking concerns that occupy a community. This is an intriguing and sophisticated read. Recommended for 13+.
Bloodflower, Christine Hinwood,
Allen & Unwin 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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