There was a man standing in the alcove that led out onto the Golden Gallery’s walkway. His attention was fixed on the explosion, which meant he hadn’t seen her yet. At first she thought he was a fire watcher, stationed up the top of St Paul’s to protect it from burning. But, no, this man was a twilight visitor – a man of the dead, not the living – she could tell by his ashen hue. Everything was a muted shade in her world; it was how you could tell the living world from the the world of the dead.
It is 1940 and Flossie Birdwhistle is the turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery, charged with keeping the souls that rest there at peace. When London is subject to enemy bombardment every night, this is an even more difficult task than usual. During one raid, when Flossie sets out to fulfill the request of one of her charges, she sees something surprising: a German soldier, who, though as dead as she is, seems to have abilities and interests from the other side of the grave. It is up to Flossie, and her friends, the turnkeys of London’s other cemeteries, to figure what he is up to, and how to stop him.
The Turnkey is an intriguing novel set in the midst of the second world war, populated with ghostly characters, as well as a handful of those still living. the concept of the dead being looked after by one of their own, and of them still carng for the world beyond the grave is appealing, and history lovers will enjoy seeing World War Two London and Germany from a very different angle.
The Turnkey, by Allison Rushby
Walker Books, 2017
So there was a girl. Young but not too young. A face as unformed as an egg, so that one could not tell if she would turn out to be fair or astonishingly ugly. She was to be sent to a city in another land by a mother and father in the midst of a divorce. The one thing they could agree upon was that the girl should not be exposed to the violence they meant to commit on their life. There was a quality in her that made it impossible to do the ravening that the end of love required.
Nobody who has read any of Isobelle Camody’s work can doubt her ability as a story teller, and this new collection of six stories serves only to cement that certainty. Metro Winds, a collection of six stories, is an eminently satisfying offering, diverse yet each connected by its quality and by the movement through the real world to fantastical, alternate worlds. Some have links to popular fairy tales, including the Princess and the Pea, whilst all have settings which will be familiar – Australia, Paris, Venice – and themes and premises which are at once recognisable yet somehow unfamiliar.
With subject matter including broken homes, marital strain and loss, couched in fantastical scenarios such as a wolf prince who abandons his wife and child because of a curse and a sister who mourns the disappearance of her younger sister but must relinquish her in order to safe a world, these are stories which grip the reader and keep the pages turning, staying with you long after the final page.
Metro Winds, by Isobelle Carmody
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online.
Ping ran back through the pine trees, her heart pounding. Kai wasn’t sitting at the mouth of the cave where she’d left him. He looked around, but the fog was like a blindfold. She called his name and ran into the cave. The little dragon was digging up the bed, scattering pine needles everywhere. Ping rushed to him…
“We’re going to find somewhere else to live,” she said, trying to sound calm.
Ping thinks she has found a safe hiding spot to bring up Kai, the baby dragon whose care has been entrusted to her. But her peace is disturbed when she realises someone has found her. She must do everything she can to protect Kai, the last dragon, but who can she trust?
Garden of the Purple Dragon is the second title in the Dragonkeeper series, picking up soon after the first left off. Ping was once a slave girl who didn’t even know her own name, until she discovered that she could communicate with dragons and that she was, in fact, heir to the position of Imperial Dragonkeeper. Now she is on the run with baby Kai, the last of the Imperial dragons, keeping him safe from those who would use him for evil – even if it kills him.
First published in 2005, Garden of the Purple Dragon has been republished, along with other books in the series, with stunning new covers and the same wonderful tale which readers will love to revisit or to discover for the first time. And, of course, on finishing it, they’ll be looking for number three in the series to see what happens next.
Garden of the Purple Dragon , by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, first published 2005, this edition 2012
This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.