This is the third and final title in the series A Tale from the Badlands. The Badlands are a part of our world, but hidden from most of us thankfully, as it is where a variety of creatures live that most of us would not want to meet on a dark night, or even a sunny day. The two main characters in the series are Jones, a young boy who has been apprenticed to a ‘Badlander’ (one who hunts these dangerous creatures), but just wants to live a normal life and Ruby who is an ordinary girl who has a desire to become a Badlander. The problem is that only boys and men can become members of the Guild. By the time we get to this final episode of their adventures Ruby is poised to become a member of the Guild, but it depends on a vote of all members of the High council; unfortunately there is a split vote with exactly 250 votes for each side. It is then suggested that Ruby should try and solve one of the puzzles found in the book of Mysteries; hence she and Jones find themselves heading for the small town of Great Walsingham, a place where Badlanders have gone but none have returned. The outcome of their investigations will decide both their futures and could perhaps change the whole of Badlander history.
I absolutely loved the two previous titles, so I was hopeful that this book would live up to them; I need not have worried, this absolutely surpassed them for excitement and for the way we are drawn into the world that the author has created. One of the central themes of this series is about women and the role they have in a given society. Ruby is determined to change perceptions and to have a role in the Badlands. She is an orphan and has been moved between foster parents for most of her life, so she just wants to find somewhere where she belongs and can feel at home. Jones also wants to feel that he belongs, but he does have parents who he has just been re-united with after they had been enthralled by a witch. This is a story about friendship and overcoming trials and tribulations, but it is also about magic and excitement and doing what is right even if it brings fear. The whole series is highly recommended and I look forward to more books from this particular author.