Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix

Shade’s secret home was a submarine. Soon after the Change it had come away from its mooring and drifted between two old, long, wooden finger wharves…Shade’s children came and went via a torpedo tube in the bow, safely out of sight under the wharf. They could then wade between the piles up to a storm-water tunnel that led into the city’s network of drains.

Fifteen years after a dramatic ‘Change’ the world is populated only by evil creatures and children under the age of fourteen. All the adults have disappeared, vanishing without trace on the morning of the Change, and the children have been herded into dormitories where they are raised until the age of fourteen, when they are taken for body parts. Overlords rule various horrible beasts, crafted from these body parts, which fight in the battles over which the overlords preside. Human beings have no place in the world outside the dormitories.

But living hidden in the city are the few children who have managed to avoid or escape capture. They are Shade’s children, and it is Shade, a computer memory of a man, who looks after them until such time as the change can be reversed. But could Shade be an enemy too?

Shade’s Children is a dark fantasy, set in an unimaginably desperate future where creatures from a parallel world have taken over and where teenagers are the only ones able to resist their dark forces. The central characters are four such teens, two boys and two girls, each with their own special gift, and each coping with the daily horrors of their lives in different ways, yet all also very strong in their desire for a better world.

This is a book which is disturbingly compelling. The young characters are faced with death and violence on a daily basis and must learn to accept it without being so immune that they become inhuman. Young readers must also look past the violence to the positive portrayal of strength and selflessness which sees the young characters working not just for their own survival, but for the restoration of the human race.

An absorbing read.

Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
First Published in 1997, this new edition Allen & Unwin, 2012