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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Family Friday: Review of Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish

A great atmospheric read for older tweens and teens with compelling characters and plenty of intrigue. I was lucky enough to win a signed copy from the author by retweeting a link to this lovely trailer (which she filmed herself - everyone say "oooh").

Title: Dark Angels
Author: Katherine Langrish
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: older children's/YA
Published: 2009

Find it at Amazon UK

The blurb says:
A bad feeling hung over the place.
"I'm not going any further," Wolf said, shivering.

Wolf is on the run, lost on a dark hillside said to be haunted by ghosts, demons and other supernatural forces. But Wolf uncovers a creature far more strange and thrilling on his journey into the shadows.

My verdict: An exciting and mysterious read, chock full of great characters. Highly recommended.
This, like Langrish's excellent Troll trilogy (see my review) is a fabulous historical adventure novel with strong fantasy elements. Langrish draws her fantasy aspects from the folk beliefs of the period she's writing in, so this novel, set in the time of the Crusades, is strongly influenced by people's fear of elves and demons.

The compelling characters are a real strength of the book, quickly gaining our sympathy and ensuring we are rooting for them. Her young protagonist, Wolf, is flawed enough to be sympathetic while being someone a tween or teen reader could admire and might choose as a friend. The book is suitable for both boys and girls, since it fits firmly into the fantasy-adventure genre and Wolf is joined by a female protagonist in the form of Lady Nest fairly quickly, ensuring both genders are represented (and eschewing the obvious 'romance' route which can alienate boys and younger readers). Nest herself is a great character, responding negatively to some of the gender-based confines of the age without standing out as anachronistic by being openly rebellious.

As the cover (and trailer) suggests, the setting is important to the novel, and the caves on the hillside feature particularly strongly, offering both temptation and threat. A chilling atmosphere is effectively created through the mystery of the setting, giving us a strong sense of place and its effect on the local residents (and again, this is something Langrish also does particularly well in the Troll trilogy).

Overall, I really enjoyed this and recommend it as a great fantasy adventure. It will definitely be a bedtime read with my eight year old in the not-too-distant-future and I'm sure she'll love it. Although this is shelved as a YA novel (perhaps because the elves are threatening and uncanny rather than sparkly and benign), I think younger children would also enjoy it, especially as a shared read.

This is my twentieth review for the Bookette's British Book Challenge 


  1. Fantastic review. I loved the Troll books and will be adding this to my to-read list.

  2. I hadn't heard of this, thanks for the review! I think a lot of books can be good bedtime reads a little before you might leave a kid alone with a book, and stuff like this with a feeling of adventure make the best shared reads.


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