This book is a winner right from the opening pages, which take 14-year-old Lucy through her daily routine – but on a spaceship which she has occupied alone for ten years. Sparkes gives a level of detail which makes her environment both credible and intriguing. Lucy is the last member of her race, travelling from Cornelian Eclata, her devastated home planet, to the sanctuary of Earth. Her only source of companionship is Mumgram, a hologram of her dead mother, who oversees all aspects of her daily life and prepares her for her new start on Earth.
Sparkes skilfully avoids the trap of sentimentality, but has much to say about isolation which is most starkly realised when Lucy is befriended by Jay and Emma. Their reactions to her first bemused experiences of Earth emphasise the poignancy of Lucy’s situation – and provide a source of gentle humour and astute observation of both generosity and suspicion of differences. Just as equanimity appears to have been reached, Lucy discovers to her horror that she has unknowingly brought the dreaded Koth to Earth – the creature which annihilated her planet. There then ensues a thrilling race against time -and disbelief- to save Earth and its people from extinction.
This is undoubtedly a page-turner of the first order, but it is far more than that. It unflinchingly shines a light on prejudicial attitudes, the roles of men and women and the power of emotion to both create and destroy. The ending may be rather hastily neat, but this is a minor flaw in an otherwise tremendous read.