Author: Susan Hill
302 pages • £10.99
Take a child from the city and deposit them in a ramshackle rural home that’s suspiciously cheap, mainly because nobody who knows the area wants to live in said home. If the above sounds strangely familiar, it’s because it’s a standard plot of kid lit, a meta-story used as a starting point.
Likeable Olly Brown fetches up at Gullywith Farm, an abode that steadfastly resists his parents’ efforts at renovation. Soon, Olly makes a new friend, KK, who takes him to meet the mysterious Nonny Dreever. Our boy, wouldn’t you just know it, has landed in the middle of an ancient conflict.
If all this sounds just a little too familiar, Hill’s unusual myth-building – encompassing rune-inscribed stones that move on their own and steadfast tortoises that never give up – makes her story initially seem fresh and vibrant.
Unfortunately, Hill’s plot runs out of steam in the last 50 pages or so, largely because she seems suddenly to be too self-consciously playing with readers’ expectations.