Shade’s Children – by Garth Nix
One day, a child woke up in his bed to discover that his parents were gone, Not only his parents, though – everyone’s. In fact, every person over the age of fourteen had disappeared. All the children left behind were soon rounded up into the Dorms where they lived until their Sad Birthday, the day when their brains and various other body parts would be ripped out and used to make one of the Overlord’s creatures. Another monster to die as part of the Overlords’ armies as each Overlord strives to win that year’s tournament.
That’s just the way it is now. But a few – so few – children escape the dorms, and if they’re incredibly lucky they survive long enough to be found by Shade, the only person in the City who can offer any protection from the creatures. Shade isn’t human, not quite; he’s what remains of a human in Artificial Intelligence form, with a human personality – and Shade wants freedom from the Overlords just as desperately as the children do. But how many of the children under his protection is Shade willing to lose in pursuit of that freedom? And is he any better than the Overlords if he’s playing with the children’s lives in such a similar way?
Nix isn’t afraid of asking hard questions in his novels. His characters are real and multidimensional – none more so than Shade. He is the children’s saviour and protector, but is also someone in a position of great power, which means he’s able to ask his children to do very dangerous things. Although we don’t delve into their individual characters too much Shade’s children – Ella, Ninde, Drum and Gold-Eye – are distinct, and are shown to have reacted in different ways to the lives they’re dealing with. I found myself wondering if we’d get a resolution in this novel, because the action was down to the wire and I couldn’t see a way out for any of them! I’ll let you read it yourself to see if it all worked out.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Nix’s work, and Shade’s Children was another example of why. Layered, vivid and satisfying; a good YA Fantasy novel.
Have you met Shade’s Children?