This is an inspired collection of novellas since it both entertains and provides tasters of the work of three talented authors. Lucy Christopher’s The Darkness cleverly plays with the modern tropes of self-discovery and reality TV, creating a claustrophobic and unsettling environment in which the characters are manipulated, abandoned and left to fall back on their often fragile self-reliance.
Kasha feels responsible for the death of her mentally unstable mother, killed by the device she had made to trap the wild black cat she was convinced was stalking her. When Kasha sees an advert for The Tribe, a psychological programme designed to assist in overcoming personal trauma, she persuades her mother’s partner to pay for the course and embarks on it with her best friend Sam. When the programme’s organisers-drug smugglers-vanish and the participants must try to escape we observe the group dynamics unfold through Kasha’s eyes.
The Twins Of Blackfin opens with Bo sitting by her friend Sky’s grave at midnight, conversing with her just as she did when Sky was alive. When she sees the town’s four most notorious thugs she hides but then notices their glazed, other-worldly expressions. She is puzzled but puts her observation down to the strange occurences which pervade the town. However, when her twin brothers’ lives are threatened she determines to discover the source of the trance which descends on the town’s inhabitants every night and, in so doing, she uncovers and solves the mystery of another set of twins,long dead, but desperate to be reunited. This is a fast-paced, ingenious narrative which avoids the cliches of the conventional ghost story-and, most entertainingly of all, is threaded through with wry humour.
Rhian Ivory’s interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl centres on Nia, whose musician mother was killed when her car hit black ice. Her father, angry and grief-stricken, wrapped up in his loss and loneliness, refuses to let Nia use the formidable talent she has inherited from her mother. After she and her friend Sol were punished for breaking school rules her father, over-protective, terrified he might lose her too, forbids her to go on the Winter Tour which the choir she had worked so hard to get into was about to embark on. To make matters worse, Nia had been given a solo-which she was determined to perform. She decides to earn money by selling her woodcarvings and busking at the market, in order to pay for her own ticket to Innsbruk, where the choir are to perform. When she is mugged and robbed it is the light from the three matches she has with her which illuminate her mother’s memory and invoke her spirit to sing Nia to safety and to the rescuing arms and repentance of her father.