The Third Magpie – M.S. Clements

*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: A loving couple

Cosy cottage

Idyllic garden

Living life on a knife edge

Together, Finn and Sophie defend their ‘Little Eden’ from the corrosive ideas and divisive society beyond their garden wall.

For Catherine, the 17 year old daughter of a local dignitary, English lessons with her tutor Finn, are a chance to rebel against her pre-ordained future.

But neither Finn nor Sophie anticipate the impact the manipulative teenager will have on their lives.

Catherine’s abusive mind games may have devastating consequences.

The Third Magpie is set in a terribly plausible dystopia which doesn’t feel far enough at all from society’s current issues.

The story follows Finn and Sophie who are wildly in love and hope that is enough to carry them through all of their challenges, differences and the secrets they each keep. Sophie is from a family of wealth and privilege, and is used to getting what she wants, but when what she wants is Finn – an immigrant who must be monitored, tagged, restricted and sometimes disciplined, for the greater good of the society they live in – she finds it harder to reconcile her love with what others insist is true.

For his part, Finn is trapped. He loves his wife, but desperately wants out of the shrinking cage he finds himself in. He wants to reunite with his family, live and work freely, and be treated as if his life has inherent value, instead of just having his uses. Things get even worse for him when spoilt little rich girl, Cat, chooses to play her dangerous power games with him… threatening his family, his life, his humanity.

The question is whether Finn and Sophie can weather the storm they have unwittingly sailed their marriage into, and whether they can not only save themselves, but expose what their country has become in its quest to become a utopia (but only for the ‘right kind’ of people).

With a very slow build-up for the first half of the novel, M.S. Clements immerses the reader in this society of exclusion, authoritarianism and constantly-tightening rules, and in the lives and backstories of the two main characters. It was a little confusing at times, early in the story, as it wasn’t always clear who the characters were, their relationships to each other, or the nature of the society they live in – all of these things are revealed gradually as the initial stages of the story unroll.

Then, halfway through, there is a change of pace – an increase in danger and in the feel of urgency – as Sophie begins to uncover some dark truths and Finn’s torture at the hands of Miss Fry intensifies. Obviously, the subjects covered here are distressing and very topical, as the us-and-them alienation spirals out of control. It was particularly disturbing to see how very easy it is to ruin a person’s life, or even that of a whole race/country – simply divide and conquer.

As well as all the subterfuge, secrets and lies and betrayal, there is also a strand of hope: how far are we willing to go to protect and save those we love?

Gripping and suspenseful, this is a dark love story which forces the reader to consider the way ‘outsiders’ are treated and what ‘family’ really means.

‘Why do they keep doing this to me? To us?’ said Finn.
All affection dissolved away with his question. Wary of the inevitable argument, she removed his arm from her shoulder. Criticism was counterproductive. The permanence of decisions made by New Albany’s elite must remain unchallenged by dissent. It is the will of the people.
‘It’s not personal, darling. It’s not against you and me.’
‘Not against you. No, you’re right.’

– M.S. Clements, The Third Magpie



Find more from M.S. Clements at the PgUp Books website or follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.

The Third Magpie is available on Amazon now.

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