Book Review, MG Fiction (8 - 12 year olds)

Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray

Orphans of the Tide is absolutely stunning. Struan Murray invites readers to dive into layers and layers of meaning and be swallowed up by the rich symbolism of the story. Surrounded by the sea, “The City” (the last in the world) is at the mercy of the tides and the power of the water. The sea is painted in all of its moods: it is beautiful, rough, wild, salty – just like the people and the buildings that make up the city. Already half underwater, the city is dark and drowning in fear of the future. As the sea tries to claim it back, the people are faced with an even bigger problem. “The Enemy” – the last of the gods – threatens to return and destroy them all. Leaders in the city (the Inquisitors) will stop at nothing to destroy it and the person who has been chosen as “The Vessel”.

13 year-old Ellie is an orphan trying to make her way in the city. Working as an engineer, she repairs and invents the most exceptional technology. She spends her life trying to live up to her mother’s legacy and surrounded by the guilt of her brother’s death. A talented girl with a scientific mind, Ellie is a fantastic role model in STEM, developing her gifts and following her dreams.

One day, a whale is washed up onto the roof of a building. To the shock of bystanders, Ellie finds a boy inside the whale and rescues him. Immediately, the Inquisitors decide that this boy is “The Vessel”, the person chosen by the Enemy to help him return to power. The Enemy lives inside the Vessel, feeding off its strength and love to grow stronger and stronger until it eventually breaks free to cause devastation and destruction throughout the world. To protect the city, the Inquisitors sentence the boy to death. Deep down, Ellie knows this boy can’t possibly be the Vessel and does all she can to rescue and protect him. For the remainder of the story, readers journey with Ellie, her best friend Anna, and Seth (the boy from the whale) as they try to escape the Inquisitors and discover truth.

The character of the city is built on religious symbolism. Looking at the wonderful map inside the front cover, it is clear that saints are incredibly important to the community.  Throughout the history of the city, those who have battled the Enemy and defeated it (if only for a time) were made a saint and revered through the naming of buildings and stories that live on. The hints of Old Testament Bible stories such as Jonah and the Whale and Noah with his Ark lead readers to think more deeply about the significance of the characters’ actions and what is important to the people of the city. Their religion is focused on defeating the evil, leading readers to wonder, “Where is the good?” Through the imagery of a pearl, we are shown that when a parasite invades, beauty and strength can form. Can the good on the outside find the strength to defeat the evil within? Ellie, Anna and Seth must face fear and guilt to try to find forgiveness, truth and love.

This is a thinking book. Readers can take great delight in delving deeper and deeper into symbolism and meaning. On the surface, the adventure is fast-paced and exciting but underneath, there is an extensive, carefully crafted story of good vs. evil, guilt vs. forgiveness, gods vs. humans, secrets vs. truth and, ultimately, the power of love. The complexity of the details is absolutely awe-inspiring and the amazing world that has been created simply cannot be left as a single book. There is so much scope for a sequel and further adventures with these wonderful characters.

Click on the cover below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.

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