This is the first part of The Circle trilogy, with 16 year old Tabby at the centre of the narrative. She and Cate-who she believes to be her mother-lead a transient life, living hand to mouth and Cate has instilled in Tabby a fear of authority in all its manifestations. When Cate is arrested and imprisoned for Tabby’s abduction at the age of 3 and she is returned to her real parents she has to come to terms with her feelings of alienation at their wealth and privilege and sort through the bewildering array of emotions her separation from Cate has generated. A further quandry is the meaning of Cate’s final words: ‘Beware The Circle.’
Tabby has always been compellingly drawn to the sea, needing to swim in it in order to feel whole. When her swimming talents are spotted she is invited to attend a summer school, which is completely isolated from the outside world. Her curiosity is piqued when she spots the symbol of the Penrose Clinic-the one her parents use- around the complex and notices the circle tattoo which Cate had on her leg intertwined in its design.
Events gradually become darker and Tabby’s initial enthusiasm is supplanted by unease, then fear. The narrative moves along at a swift pace but this is in keeping with the tumultuous emotions which Tabby has to deal with. The scenarios often strain belief because they deal with urgent contemporary issues-not only climate change but, even more alarmingly, the relentless advance of the clandestine use of technology.
Through the mounting horrors which Tabby experiences-the cloning and murder of her friends, the deaths of her newly rediscovered parents, Cate’s murder in prison-there is a grain of hope: Jago, the boy she met on a Taunton beach who wanted to help her. After her dramatic escape from the swimming school complex and the deaths of her parents she is completely alone and she determines to return to the beach and wait for what she hopes will be his eventual return, since he is the only one she feels will believe her fantastical story and the only person she hopes she can trust.
This is a gripping read which, despite the density and speed of the plot,will keep readers wanting more.