(Hodder Children's Books, £5.99, 334 pages, paperback, published
13 May 2004.)
Agnes Cotter (known as Aggie) has
up in a small village. At the age of fourteen, she is summoned to Murkmere
Hall to be the companion of the Master's sixteen-year-old ward Leah.
But her first impressions of Leah and the Hall are unhappy ones: Leah
is headstrong, and she challenges everything Aggie has been brought
up to accept.
Told in first person, Murkmere is a compelling novel set in
a fantasy world which Elliott has since returned to, in 2005's Ambergate.
Here, birds are worshipped and the Table of Significance's omens are
to be obeyed. Aggie is an engaging heroine, resisting seduction by the
Master's steward Silas Seed (who has to be a villain with a name like
that) and winning over Leah only to fall out with her again over a cloak
of swan-skin. Eventually she wins the confidence of the ailing Master
at a time when the all-powerful Ministration pay a visit at a grand
Patricia Elliott won the 2001 Fidler Award for her debut novel The
Ice Boy. Children's fantasy fiction is a crowded field but Murkmere
shows that there is plenty of merit there and always has been, despite
young-adult fiction's current fashionability with adult readers and
writers. (Murkmere is probably best for over-elevens, due to
some mild sexual references, including that attempted seduction by Silas.)
Elliott has created a fascinating world and a return visit would be