The Eye of the North – Sinéad O’Hart

*I received a free review copy of this novel via NetGalley.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

61uHw-yyfsL__SY346_Blurb:  When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading across the sea to a safe house in Paris.

But before she can reach her destination, she is kidnapped from the ship by evil mastermind Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland.  There he hopes to summon a mythical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world.

But Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too.

Emmeline – along with an urchin stowaway named Thing – is the only one with the power to save the world.

Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell the tale?

I’m all excited to be writing this review, as I absolutely loved this book and was sorry to put it down!

This the book I wanted Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series to be:  an epic children’s adventure, steampunk-ish style, but where I clinically enjoyed Lyra’s adventures with no real emotional investment, I immediately engaged with The Eye of the North and almost cheered/gasped/groaned aloud as events unfolded.

The opening sentence of this book is arresting, and the early chapters reminded me somewhat of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.  I found I instantly empathised with Emmeline (one of my favourite fictional characters is the archaeologist Amelia Peabody, from Elizabeth Peters’ Egyptian series, and I could instantly imagine Emmeline as a young Amelia!), and once Thing was introduced I was in character-heaven with their snark and good old-fashioned spunk.

I particularly adored how the young heroes held their own amongst the adult characters, showing bravery, initiative and learned survival skills that thoroughly impressed me.  No sitting around waiting for the adults to come up with a plan here, or waiting to be rescued by your male co-protagonist.  Nope, Emmeline just marshals her resources and grit and gets on with the job at hand.

In terms of story, the plot is well-paced and easy to follow, whilst retaining a few mysteries for (please!) future sequels.  There are fantastical creatures and intriguing contraptions galore, but our characters buck the trend by not quite being orphans, or Chosen Ones, and not suddenly exhibiting magical powers, but instead being reliant on themselves, their allies, and whatever they can find in their pockets.

It is the tone though, that really ranks this writer amongst my all-time favourites.  Sinéad O’Hart has a light, humourous, snarky touch that brings her characters sparkling to life and caused me to use the Kindle highlight function more than I have ever done in my life (er, never that I recall!).  Whilst I personally enjoy any and all fiction, it is these books that nod their heads at real life, then grin and wink, that I come back to again and again in my own personal reading library (Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt, Elizabeth Peters, to name just a few).  The Eye of the North is definitely joining their ranks!

So a glowing review from me for this one.  I can’t think of any aspect that did not work for me in this book, and I wholeheartedly and eagerly await the next novel from Sinéad O’Hart, whether it be more Widgets (*nods enthusiastically*), or something new but equally captivating.

   “Well I…” Emmeline began.  “It’s sort of hard to explain.”  Particularly when you don’t understand it yourself, she thought, picking absentmindedly at a loose thread on the buckle of her satchel.
“Fascinatin’ story, that,” said Thing after a minute.

– Sinéad O’Hart, The Eye of the North

You can find more from Sinéad O’Hart at her blog here or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

The Eye of the North will be released on 15th February.  Preorder it on Amazon here.

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