BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
Book Title: The Eye of the North
Author: Sinéad O’Hart
Publication Date: March 2018
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6
Sinéad O’Hart’s debut novel The Eye of the North has been on my radar ever since Sinéad kindly contributed her own reading recommendation to our 'Best Books of 2017' community booklist. When I first read the synopsis and found out that part of the book is set in the frozen north, there was instant appeal because I have been enjoying so many fantastic middle grade fantasy adventures recently that wonderfully evoke polar settings (see my recent reviews of Sky Song and Brightstorm for examples).
The story follows the adventures of its plucky heroine Emmeline, who finds out that her parents have disappeared and is then shipped off to a mystery address in Paris. The opening chapters are exciting and filled with the perfect amount of intrigue and an enjoyably fast plot drive. On the ship to France, Emmeline meets an entertaining companion called ‘Thing’ and the pair are inadvertently drawn together when they are forced to escape from a group of menacing kidnappers, who eventually catch Emmeline and take her to the frozen north under the directions of the villainous Dr Bauer.
Much of the middle section of the book covers the arduous journey north and is told through the alternating perspectives of Emmeline and her new friend Thing, who sets out on his own journey to rescue her. Some sections feel lengthy and require a good level of reading stamina, meaning that the text is really best suited for more able readers in upper KS2. But the journey is well worth the perseverance due to the excellent characters that the pair encounter when they reach the North.
First, there is a colossal Kraken waiting to be woken from its icy depths. The Kraken is at once fantastic and grotesque and is sought after by various characters with a desire to control it and harness its power for their own evil schemes. The Kraken embodies the book’s important theme of environmental sustainability, as it seems to divide characters between those interested in preserving the planet for the sake of future generations and those who are willing to be as reckless as it takes to fund their own desires. The same theme is also carried throughout the plot by the references to the melting ice caps and rising sea levels that shape the story's landscape.
Also of note among the cast of characters are the wonderfully imaginative ice horses (who are almost a living embodiment of the Aurora Borealis), the likeable indigenous hunter Igimaq and the chilling antagonist the Northwitch, who seems to be made from ice particles and can take the form of other human bodies if she chooses.
The Eye of the North is ambitious in breadth and leaves you with the feeling that there is much more to explore from this world (there even seemed to be a small hint of a dragon-related adventure to follow, but I’m told that in fact there is no sequel currently planned). I would recommend this story to readers in upper KS2 that have the ability to read longer texts but are not necessarily ready for the more mature content of YA (Young Adult) material.
I also want to give a shout out here to PrimarySchoolBookClub, a new Twitter chat run by @MrEPrimary. The Eye of the North is the current pick of the month, so do give it a read and then join the chat at 7pm on 31st March. All you need to do is follow the account @PrimarySchoolBC to come together with others for a discussion of the book and ideas for using it in school, to share reviews and to ask questions to the author, Sinéad O’Hart. At the end there will be a vote for the next PrimarySchoolBookClub book of the month.
Find 'The Eye of the North' on Amazon or from any good bookshop or library.