Book Review: Flood Child by Emily Diamand
What's it About?
Set in the 22nd century, in a Britain which has been partly flooded due to climate change. Scotland now covers most of Britain, engulfing all of Wales and most of England. Life has become feudal and brutal, the scattered survivors living in constant dread of fierce maritime warriors called reavers.
The main character is a small girl named Lilly, who lives in a small fishing village with her grandmother and a "seacat" - a cat with the ability to know where fish can be located or when a storm's blowing in.
Lilly's village is attacked by reavers, who leave trawlers smashed and people slaughtered, including Lilly's grandmother. The reavers also kidnap the prime minister's daughter who had been visiting a relative in the village, and this act ignites open war between the tribes.
Lilly decides to stop this war by rescuing the prime minister's kidnapped daughter, and so she sails off in her small boat with her cat, aiming to pay the ransom with a beautiful jewel which turns out to be a one of the last surviving AI computers. As such, it's a highly valuable artifact sought after by all sides.
This novel was previously published under the title Reavers' Ransom.
About the Author
Flood Child is Emily Diamand's first novel. She has since had two other novels published, including the sequel to Flood Child.
Diamand was born in London in 1971, and grew up in Oxfordshire with her parents and two siblings. She went on to take degrees in 18th century poetry and literature then environment science, and became a campaigner for Friends of the Earth.
Diamand won The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2008, and was shortlisted for the 2009 Branford Boase Best Debut Novel Award.
She is married, with one child.
What's to Like?
This debut novel, aimed at children, is a lively tale of self-reliance and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. Lilly is a feisty, independently-minded young girl who resists unwelcome attempts to marry her off to a villager she despises. Instead, she is determined to live life on her own terms.
The story is not without a sense of humour, which helps to bring the various characters' personalities to life. The characters are well-crafted and distinct from each other, and offer a pleasing selection of friends and foes.
The most complex character is that of Zeph, a boy whom Lilly befriends with mixed consequences. Zeph hopes to follow in his father's footsteps as the leader of their violent and cruel tribe of warriors, but to do this he has to betray Lilly.
Lilly is helped by her cat, a clever animal with almost magical powers. She's also aided by a high-tech gadget which looks like a jewel but is really an advanced AI games computer. I really like how the author has combined dystopian world-building with this surviving remnant of the previous culture.
The novel is well-paced, with many plot twists; certainly it's an entertaining read.
What's Not to Like?
Lilly's fellow villagers think that it is acceptable to push a child into marriage. Thank goodness that Lilly has the sense to resist all such attempts, but I found this tiny subplot to be intrusive in an otherwise fairly innocent narrative.
I have to wonder why Lilly was so forgiving of her friend Zeph, who not only betrayed her trust several times but consented to torture her. The torture scene in particular could be too graphic for younger children.
Zeph's torn loyalties between Lilly and his tribal family are understandable but Lilly's tolerance of him seems too naive for someone who has encountered grief, warring chieftains and schemers.
I would have welcomed more detail about exactly how large tracts the country became flooded and how the survivors developed the tribal units which populate Lilly's world.
Some children might struggle a little with the dialectical spellings used throughout the novel, both in the speech and the narrative. The narrative switches between Lilly and Zeph, and while their different characters shine through clearly it may have helped to have their names as a chapter heading, so that each change-over is more obvious.
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© 2018 Adele Cosgrove-Bray