(Simon & Schuster Children's Books, £5.99, 224 pages, paperback,
published March 2005; ISBN: 1416901353.)
Century by Sarah Singleton is a gothic fantasy, set circa 1890.
It tells the tale of two
sisters, Mercy and Charity, who are trapped in a house called Century.
A house shrouded in winter darkness, where spring never comes and every
day is the same. The girls are cared for by a housekeeper named Aurelia,
and taught by a strict governess named Galatea. They sometimes glimpse
their widowed father, but Trajan Verga is a distant, brooding man. They
can barely remember their mother. Sometimes Mercy sees ghosts in the
Things begin to change when Mercy discovers a snowdrop on her pillow--a
mysterious and new occurrence. Then she meets a man named Claudius who
claims to be a member of the Verga family, and claims it is possible
for Mercy to see her mother again.
Mercy is a plucky heroine who, through the course of the novel, seeks
to uncover the truth about her family's history. The magical trap in
which the Verga family is ensnared is more complex than it at first
appears. To reveal any more would be to ruin what is a brilliantly constructed
This is a fabulous story, written for older children but which can
be enjoyed by all. While the overall story is excellent, there are also
many brilliant set pieces along the way. I particularly enjoyed Mercy's
daring escape from a locked room. And a scene in which a living soul
is transferred into an inanimate shell is genuinely creepy.
Fans of Sarah's adult fiction should have no hesitation in seeking
out this new work. And I hope many new readers will discover her through
this utterly charming tale.
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