Saturday 10 December 2016

Review: Children's fiction: Dark Warning by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Orion Children’s Books , £8.99

Published 12/02/2012 | 06:00

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is a multi-award winning picture-book author and illustrator, three-times-winner of the Bisto Book of the Year, in 2001 for You, Me and the Big Blue Sea, 2003 for Izzy and Skunk and in 2010 for There.

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Her first novel for older readers, Timecatcher, a ghostly mystery set in an old Dublin Button Factory, was published by Orion in 2010.

Her second novel, Dark Warning, is also set in historic Dublin. Thirteen-year-old Taney Tyrell lives with her father, stepmother and baby brother in Thundercut Alley off Dublin's Smithfield, the old market area of the north inner city.

Taney has the gift of second sight and has premonitions and out-of-body experiences. She discovers that her late mother also had this special gift and that it can sometimes be an unwelcome curse.

She learns to use this gift in different ways: to predict the future by reading tea leaves or to win at cards; it can be helpful to find valuable lost items, but her gift can also give dark warnings about events to come and tensions build when the Stoneybatter Strangler strikes.

The family lives in a 'boarding house'. Taney helps out by going to work with her stepmother in a large Georgian houses on Queen Street.

When other children taunt Taney about her gift, she befriends a local character, an unfortunate orphan boy without legs.

'Billy-the-bowl' can move around thanks to a special half-barrel on wheels that a cooper made for him.

Told in the first person, the strong Dublin dialect provides a narrative challenge but helps create an authenticity. The family relationships are warmly evoked and the rich descriptions of the horse market, Halloween, the wealthy people's parties and the homes and daily life of ordinary people are memorable.

For young readers familiar with the city, the inclusion of many place names that are still used today adds to the setting and lends further authenticity to the drama.

This novel about 19th-Century life in Dublin rewards the reader with fascinating historical insight and is an original twist on the paranormal trend.

Paddy O'Doherty

Paddy O'Doherty is a children's book editor and board member of Children's Books Ireland

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