Kestrel Hath’s schoolroom rebellion against the stifling caste system of Aramanth leads to explosive consequences for her and her family: they are relegated to the city’s lowest caste and are ostracized. With nothing left to lose, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, do the unthinkable: they leave the city walls. Their only hope to rescue the rest of their family is to find the key to the wind singer, a now-defunct device in the city’s center, which was once the course of happiness and harmony in Aramanth. But the key was given to an evil spirit-lord, the Morah, in exchange for the Morah’s calling off its terrible army of Zars. Armed with desperate bravery, wits, and determination, Kestrel, Bowman, and a tagalong classmate set off to find the key. Along the way they meet allies and foes, but in order to succeed in their quest, they must face the most sinister force of all: the powerful Morah.
So I have been meaning to read this book for quite some time. I was going to read it during my time as a Puffin but then opted to read the Uglies series instead. I made a horrendous mistake. While reading this, it slowly dawned upon me that the seconds and minutes were just slipping by and, all of a sudden, I was halfway through the book. This book is incredibly special and, maybe I missed the boat on this one (it came out nearly 15 years ago!), but it deserves a lot more recognition than it is getting.
Set in a world where bettering yourself in the eyes of the government by standardised testing and lots of it (sound familiar?!), Kes is on the verge of a rebellion after her younger sister Pinpin is put through tests at age 2. That’s not the reason why she rebelled, but it is the start of the epic adventure she goes on with her older brother Bowman across the mystical land of Aramanth, one of the most detailed and well drawn worlds I have ever come across. Oh, and then there’s Mumpo! (Plot twist: Mumpo is amazing!)
The story, as a whole, is fantastic. You are dragged along for 300 or so pages on a thrilling adventure with Kes and her brother (and Mumpo! Yay Mumpo!) It is a classic adventure story with lots of twists and turns. Unlike some modern YA novels, the subject matter is not overly controversial, but is still compelling because it feels so real. The links that the book has to today’s society also help that. Aramanth is where we’re headed under Michael Gove. You heard it here first. The characters are great (MUMPO MUMPO MUMPO!) and, as much as it pains me to be someone who says this about a book, I would LOVE to see this as a film. It could be potentially gorgeous!