a review by Nalini Haynes
Sarah Silverwood’s Double-edged Sword begins with Fin (Finmere Tingewick Smith) turning 16, his birthday launching him from his strange life into a stranger adventure. As a baby Fin was found in a cardboard box on the steps of the Old Bailey. Up until now, Fin has lived a life of dislocation and change, every second year at St Martins, a private school, every other year at a public school. Fin has been told to keep secrets, ending up with Fin feeling very isolated and alone in spite of having a best friend at each school. After his birthday, however, Fin meets Judge Brown who intends to tell him some of Fin’s story so that Fin feels less like an abandoned child and more like a ‘placed’ child. Unfortunately the judge’s explanation raises more questions than it provides answers, then the judge is murdered.
Judge Brown’s murder sets Fin on a quest to find help in the Nowhere, an alternate reality. Fin’s friends from each of his schools, Joe and Christopher, join him on this quest. Both get caught up in the adventure in unexpected ways, becoming pivotal characters not just side kicks. Mona, a teenage girl, joins them as a guide in the Nowhere as they search for Fowkes, the one knight they hope will help them.
Silverwood has treated her readers with respect by writing about issues with which her readers may be able to relate while simultaneously treating them to an intense escapist adventure. Fin’s dilemma born of his strange life is one any teen can probably relate to with the stress of building an identity, but especially any teen from a broken home or who has been adopted. Joe and Christopher each come from different worlds, but in this case they are the private and public school worlds, both located in the Somewhere. Both are developing their own identities while learning to relate to one another in new ways.
I would like to see humourous events, quirks revealed of characters or witty banter more frequently scattered through the story to periodically alleviate the tension and add a contrasting flavour. But then, I’m a Buffy fan.
The Double-Edged Sword has character development and a well paced plot. As the first book in a trilogy, the story and characters are effectively introduced. A conclusion of sorts is reached with threads leaving one waiting for the next installment. Aimed at a teenage audience, The Double-Edged Sword may appeal to adults as well. Read this book if you liked Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Harry Potter (for older teens).
Note: There are brief but probably fairly accurate descriptions of behaviour in slums that are not intended for a younger audience. Sexual references and drug references.
This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 2, January 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.