WARRIOR STONE : UNDERLAND by R B HARKESS
EBook, 182 pages, Fox Spirit
British journalist and author Caitlin Moran came under fire on Twitter the other day for making an ill-advised comment in The Bookseller about YA, namely :
““It’s always about teenage boys going off and having amazing adventures. You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires so I wanted to write about a funny, weird teenage girl having adventures…” (My highlight).
Predictably, this attracted a certain amount of ire and even the creation of a new hashtag, #caitlinmoranshouldread, which quickly filled up with recommendations for YA books featuring weird, funny, courageous teenage girls going off and having vampire free adventures. “Warrior Stone : Underland” by R B Harkess would be a worthy addition to that hashtag.
Sneaking back from a rock concert, lonely teenager Claire Stone stumbles from her station platform into the mysterious Other-London of Underland, a world just different enough to lull you into a dangerous sense of complacency. Almost before she can draw breath, she’s on the run from a shape-shifting monster, helped by Evie, a mysterious, hardened, Underland Warrior. Evie reluctantly takes Claire under her wing, explaining how Underland is a separate realm from the Real, showing her how to jump between the worlds and how to defend herself from the invasive Morphs. But when Evie vanishes from both the Real and Underland, Claire must make a perilous trip with uncertain allies across Under-London to track her down.
In a way “Warrior Stone : Underland” is reminiscent of Neverwhere, and if you liked that you’re likely to enjoy this. Harkess has put a lot of thought into the world he’s created, with the different races; the bureaucratic, cunning Grenlix, the Hrund who provide the muscle, the dangerous, scarcely-seen Angels, who are in no way angelic as we know it. There are hints of steampunk in the look of the city, but the power that runs the place comes from magic, rather than steam and cogs. He has also done a very good job of getting inside the head of an awkward teenage girl – Claire might be flitting between the Real and Underland, but the problems she encounters in both realms will be familiar to all readers, from school bullying to embarrassing encounters with attractive boys.
It’s clear this is the start of what will hopefully be a longer series – there are many questions left unresolved, about the Angels, the nature of the Morphs, and about Evie herself, who is determined to pursue her own agenda no matter how much trouble it gets her and Claire into. It’s an exploration of the friendship between teenage girls set against a background of monsters, magic guns and blob monsters. A highly enjoyable read that leave you wanting more.