This is a tale of obsession, madness and survival and it is a tale told by an author in full control of her material.

The story starts slowly as our semi-deaf and bullied heroine, Sym, tells of a childhood during which she has retreated into a world inhabited only by her bosom buddy, Captain Titus Oates; he who accompanied and died during Scott’s fateful trip to the Antarctic. It is an obsession prompted by her genius Uncle Victor who has fed her a diet of Antarcticana for as long as she can remember. Victor has been a benign substitute father since her own died and when she is fourteen he takes her on what she thinks is the trip of a lifetime. Once in Antarctica the pace accelerates into a high-octane adventure, while revelation after revelation strips Sym’s reality bare and leaves the reader breathless. For it transpires that Uncle Victor has a cunning plan ……

Antarctica is as much a personality as any of the human characters in this book. Stunningly beautiful, it gradually acquires a life-threatening madness and malevolence paralleling that of Sym’s uncle.

Woven throughout the adventure, there is much relating to the geography and the history of the region. There is also a solid foundation course in arctic survival techniques. Yet all this information is so skillfully blended into the narrative, the reader does not notice the educational value of the material.

A fabulous, fabulous novel – one which must surely set the standard for young adult fiction.

50bookchallenge:  13 / 50

15000 pages: 3,626 / 15,000

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