by Philip S. Davies
Books to Treasure (2018) Paperbacks £8.99
I’ve just completed reading this author’s Destiny series of novels for Young Adults, featuring Katelin, the reluctant and somewhat rebellious young Queen of Anestra. These second two books, very different from one another, complete the story of how Katelin, having succeeded to the throne on her eighteenth birthday (young, and almost unexpectedly, similarly to both Victoria and Elizabeth II), are remarkable for the perception with which this mature, male writer sees into Katelin's young, female, reluctance to ‘follow the family’, preferring to make her own way. But that is not where this stops. It ‘goes much deeper’ into the process of ‘growing up’ and self-understanding…
In Destiny’s Revenge, poor Katelin is challenged to face not only an attack on her land and its capital city by rebellious vassals, but a very nasty plague which arrives around the same time. This however enables her to set out on an adventure - something we already know she loves, and to challenge the power she believes is responsible for the plague. We see as the story develops how the author handles several key relationships with characters already met in the first book, and how Katelin faces temptations, loss and betrayal, all in the context of a fast-moving adventure story.
In Destiny’s Ruin, which kicks off with political betrayals and challenges, we see a different side of his story telling. The themes of friendship, loyalty, love, and coping with powerful manipulative family figures are woven at times into quieter scenes where there’s time for reflection and discussion. Here the story deals (within the context of abduction and many dangers, culminating in natural as well as human disasters) with the tricky tasks of decision making, whether around identity, relationships, or career moves. What motivates how we make these? Who can help us? Who must we challenge, and with what consequences?
One aspect of Davies’s writing I particularly admire is how, when creating, and continuing to write, characters who embody the negative, and provide the ‘enemy’ or ‘protagonist’s danger’, he never stoops towards caricature. He walks a line between a person being (due to their position as threat or enemy) an ugly manipulative so-and-so, with a nasty way of speaking, without letting rip with superiority and derision, a failing too often found in books aimed at the young. He isn’t ‘preachy’ when he writes the ‘good’ characters (particularly Gracie, a wonderful creation who feels to me like the flip side of the old witch women one finds lurking in fairy stories). And he handles a growing romance (almost inevitable when the young protagonist is only 19) with incredible deftness and reality.
I also loved the way he writes Katelin’s relationship with her horse. And particulary how he ties up the ends - not giving any spoilers there but pretty profound stuff.
Five stars for Philip S. Davies (maybe it helps a writer to have teenage children currently in your family?)