Shiny trinkets for the nest.
Always want one more.
Pretty pretty pretty.
At the start of summer break from school, Becca is looking for fun with her friends, she’s becoming interested in boys, and she’s close with her parents and her older sister: she’s your typical 14-year old British girl. But when she meets and becomes involved with Mal, she finds that he is anything but your typical teenaged boy.
Such is the premise of Broken Bird, the latest novel from indie author Gareth Topping, and to elaborate is to spoil this dark and gripping tale of a summer romance that swiftly goes from innocent flirtation to supernatural horror.
Part of what makes Broken Bird so good is Topping’s excellent characterization and effortless dialogue. Becca, her sister Marie, their parents, Mal, and the others act and talk like real people, even when they find themselves faced with sinister events that they can’t explain.
“Yeees?” she calls back.
“Is there any leftover Chinese?”
A pause. I imagine her and Dad exchanging confused, amused looks.
“Are you still hungry?”
“No! There’s a bird in the garden. I wanted to feed him.”
“Just give it a bit of bread or a biscuit or something.”
I rummage through the biscuit barrel and took out a few of the crumbly plain ones that no-one really likes, and wouldn’t miss.
I go back outside, starting to break up the biscuits in my hands.
“Okay,” I say. “Here you—”
I stop, and suddenly feel scared.
There was only one crow before. Now there’s…I don’t know. Twenty? All perched on the garden wall, all looking at me with beady black eyes.
“I don’t have enough for you all…” I mumble, taking an instinctive step backwards, towards the house.
For most of its 320 pages, Broken Bird is the sort of creepy horror tale that hints, teases, and implies what’s going on, before finally breaking loose near the end. Many of the scary scenes aren’t graphic; nevertheless, some of them may be too intense for readers under 16. Fans of the genre will enjoy the plot twists that Topping serves up.
You’ve probably never heard of Gareth Topping, but he’s no newbie, having previously published several short stories in the genre, as well as last year’s chilling novella, No Man’s Land, about a World War I British sergeant who finds himself in an impossible—and inescapable—predicament. Bookmark Gareth’s Amazon page, because he is prolific and excellent.
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in fall 2016.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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