Shortlisted debut is gripping read for all ages

Liz MacWhirter

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Sometimes it feels like Young Adult (YA) readers get all the best fiction.

That is particularly true of Black Snow Falling, the debut novel by L J MacWhirter, published by Scotland Street Press.

Before you even open the first page, this book catches your eye – silver, white and shimmering, Tim Byrne’s jacket design is gorgeous and you can’t help but pick the novel up to investigate further.

The fact that MacWhirter’s book was shortlisted for Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Our First Book Award gives you your first hint that this will be something special.

The book is full of ideas that are sure to fire young people’s imaginations and get them talking, including science, gender politics, class and money, the power of books to inspire and the importance of having a dreams.

There is action, betrayal, love, and a powerful spiritual element running throughout the book that reminded me of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. And it is that fight between good and evil, with the mysterious and dangerous dream thieves who threaten to destroy all hope, in which our gutsy protagonist Ruth finds herself sucked into.

The story, an imaginative mix of historical fiction and fairytale, takes place almost 500 years ago in 1592.

Ruth is a young nobleman’s daughter who has lost her mother and is missing her absent father. But despite her losses and emotional challenges, Ruth embodies the determined spirit that we all hope is inside us, and as such it makes her the type of lead character we all want to identify with.

MacWhirter’s book, while opening with a terrible act, leads us into the drama at a steady pace, building momentum until you find yourself gripped in the drama and excitement of it all.

This is a powerful tale with real moral complexity, and standing strong at its centre is the message of hope, and it’s that message that makes it a book that all ages – not just young adults – will enjoy.

MacWhirter has got off to a cracking start – I could not put the book down. And this ‘young’ reader awaits her next novel with anticipation.