Sophie Anderson’s latest novel again has its source in Slavic folklore as she re-imagines the Russian folk poem ‘Nightingale the Robber’. Here, though, she creates an entirely new fantasy world in the floating island of Morovia, where humans live on one side of the island and alkonosts, the bird-people, live on the other. The two peoples once lived in harmony until the singing magic of the alkonosts was blamed for the tragedy that divided the island. Linnet, a 13-year-old alkonost, longs to be able to sing magic and to unite the land and return her people from banishment. Linnet’s quest for unity and understanding sees her embark on a dangerous journey, braving treacherous swamps, alligator pools and a dank fortress prison. Linnet is brave, persistent, and kind and learns that friendship and understanding are more important than magic in uniting her broken island and its divided peoples.
Sophie Anderson succeeds in creating a captivating fantasy world of floating islands, swamp homes, shipwrecks, and magical bird people. Fans of the author’s previous books will also welcome the surprise appearance of the house with chicken legs. In addition to its evocative setting and strong characters, this book provides a timely portrayal of the destructive effects of conflict, division, and misunderstanding on a society. Themes of grief, hope, tolerance, empathy, friendship, and self-belief are effectively explored. The whole book builds into a powerful plea for unity and understanding in a world of division and fear, conveying an important message in current times, heartfelt and full of hope.