I read Sky Song by Abi Alphinstone over Christmas, which was the perfect time to enjoy a magical fantasy tale about Snow Queens, Sky Gods and brave children. There is so much to enjoy in this book, the snowy wilderness of Erkenwald, the three distinct tribes that live there, the wild creatures and the old magic. However the thing that makes this story really sing is the triumvirate of Eska, Flint and Blu at the centre of it. They are fantastic characters and the relationships between them are powerful and warm.
Without a doubt my favourite character is Blu. I assume from the description of her that she has Down's syndrome. As I read, I realised that I don't think I have read a fantasy story with a character like her. She is adorable, funny, sensitive to truth and so beautifully described. It was new and wonderfully surprising to read about her, and the contribution she makes to the adventure is meaningful, she's no bit part. Abi Elphinstone nimbly makes the point that being different can be an advantage and it's the eye of the beholder which can be limited.
I also loved Balapan, the eagle. I'm a sucker for a story that features a child who has a special relationship with an animal, and the relationship between Eska and Balapan is a pretty special one. I won't give much away but let's just say, I want one. I'm hoping there will be another Sky Song story because I want to read more about them and Eska's voice.
Sky Song is a unique, compelling and magical adventure that I cannot recommend highly enough to middle grade readers. There are many great qualities this book posses, yes it is a brilliant, heart stopping, tear inducing, soul soaring adventure, but it more than that. It champions a positive relationship with nature - which I am all for - and makes a comment about the negative effects of separatism, in the tribe's responses to each other in the face of the Snow Queens divisive attacks. And, last but certainly not least, it puts Blu into a reader's imagination, which may help people to view difference with more understanding. I am not surprised that Waterstones has made Sky Song their book of the month for January. It's pretty special.