It's hard not to picture the Greek Islands when reading this lovely story. The mix between a group of islands and the remnants of an ancient catalogue of mythological gods is totally captivating. In one respect, the story is quite a credible tale rather than one of fantasy. There are signs of the gods who once filled the sea but are long gone. Mysterious and magical, as all the creatures of the sea are, it's easy to engage with the book because, let's be honest, how many times have we found something almost alien washed up on the shore and wondered about its origins and powers?
The plot revolves around two orphaned boys who scavenge the beach for 'godware' (from now on that's what I'll call seashells and the suchlike) in order to sell to tourists and folk who want these collectible and often rare items. Some still carry the powers of the gods, perhaps. In many cases they are indulging in illegal activities and the youngest boy is arrested and sold as a slave, to a doctor. He works at the Sanctuary, where old monks live, complete with their knowledge of the gods and life of yore.
This is more than a dreamy story about mythical sea creatures though. The relationship between the boys is a complex one; they rely on each other but there is bullying, insecurities and coercion disguised as loyalty, protection and brotherhood. Then there are ruthless gangs who work the shore as well. At times, the story pads along at the same pace the myths of Ancient Greece do. But it's all good - really good storytelling.
Published by Pan MacMillan on 31 October 2019.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.