‘River Daughter’ by Jane Hardstaff

Hooray! Thanks to superstar blogger, Jim Dean, Moontrug has discovered another author worthy of The Altocumulus Tower – the wonderfully talented Jane Hardstaff. Her debut, The Executioner’s Daughter, met with glowing reviews and now the sequel, River Daughter, is out. And it was this book Moontrug got her hands on first…
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Moss has left her old life in the Tower behind her. Her father has swapped his executioner’s axe for a blacksmith’s forge and, with Salter, she finally has the home she always dreamed of. But when an old enemy returns, Moss has no choice but to leave everything she loves. She sets off on a deadly journey to put an end to the evil that is enveloping London like a stinking fog. It’s a decision that may cost her friendship with Salter – and her life…

Hardstaff conjures up a hugely vivid sense of place and Moss’ connection to the river running through her village and calling her to act is powerfully drawn. In fact the writing is so lyrical Moontrug wanted to leap into the ‘shimmering world’ with Moss and Salter and set off on an adventure – but just pages later Hardstaff offers up another side to the river, a place where terrible darkness stirs. And Moss’ journey – from the peaceful country village to the stinking, bustling streets of London – marked a fantastic change of pace. Hardstaff’s Tudor London is realistically portrayed and Moontrug loved the historical details that wove together with the magic in the story.

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And it is in London that Moss’ adventure really unfurls: beasts locked in the Tower, an evil stirring in the river, a Whipmaster bent on cruelty… The characters are wonderfully compelling, from the enigmatic Eel-Eye Jack (whose rooftop music sings to Moss of faraway lands full of ice and snow) and the FANTASTIC Jenny Wren. When she burst onto the scene, Moontrug’s breath caught in her throat. Hers was an energy not to be missed – one that leaps from the page and will enthral any reader. Together with Moss, Hardstaff offers up two brilliantly bold and entertaining heroines. And Moss’ bond with the polar bear is fantastic: a perfect blend of trust, chancing luck and adventure – and the way in which the book ends in light of this bond is AMAZING. The book has pace and adventure (fight scenes and chase episodes are executed perfectly) and moments of real heart as characters strive to belong, to understand and to make things right. Moontrug couldn’t recommend River Daughter more highly – it’s a fantastic read for 8+ years.