Title: Raiders’ Ransom (UK titles Reavers’ Ransom/Flood Child)
Author: Emily Diamand
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Post-apocalypse, Dystopia, Young Adult
Publisher: The Chicken House (Scholastic) (US & UK)
Publication Date: July 2009 (UK) / December 2009 (US)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of a planned series
How did I read this book: ARC from Publisher
Why did I read this book: We were sent an ARC for this title from the publisher, and one glance at the synopsis – a flooded, post-apocalyptic London overrun with pirates and danger – and I was sold. Game, set, match.
Summary: (from amazon.com)
It’s the 22nd century and, because of climate change, much of England is underwater. Poor Lilly is out fishing with her trusty sea-cat when greedy raiders pillage the town–and kidnap the prime minister’s daughter. Her village blamed, Lilly decides to find the girl. Off she sails, in secret. And with a ransom: a mysterious talking jewel. “If I save his daughter,” Lilly reasons, “the prime minister’s sure to reward me.” Little does Lilly know that it will take more than grit to outwit the tricky, treacherous piratical tribes!
The year is 2216, and a thirteen-year old orphan named Lilly leaves the home she shares with her Grandmother on a morning like any other, searching the coastline in her small boat with her seacat (named Cat) for fish. When Lily returns home, however, her life is turned upside down – fearsome Raiders have invaded her village, abducting the Prime Minster’s daughter, burning the village ships, and killing Lilly’s Grandmother. The Prime Minister, furious at his seven-year old daughter’s kidnapping and the cowering villagers who did nothing to prevent the abduction, turns his wrath on the townspeople, forcing all the men and boys into jails with the intent to execute them all as an example. With Lilly’s best friend, Andy and his father among those captured and waiting to be put to death, Lilly decides to take matters into her own hands. Stealing a letter and a rather large, very precious jewel from the Prime Minister’s sister, Lilly cuts off her hair and masquerades as a boy and makes way for Lunden to find the raiders and pay them ransom for Alexandra’s return home. Along the way, Lilly grudgingly befriends a young Raider boy named Zeph – who happens to be the son of the Raider leader responsible for the kidnapping. As their two paths intertwine, Lilly and Zeph come to a crossroads and must decide with whom they will align themselves – especially when it turns out that the large jewel Lilly has taken for ransom is anything but a gem, and instead is something infinitely more precious. The ransom item is in fact a powerful, self-aware war-game computer; a relic from the time before “the Collapse” and the floods that have isolated and destroyed much of lower England. And even more troublesome is how desperately Greater Scotland – the dominating, more advanced nation to the north of the water-logged ten counties of England – wants the computer, and will go to any lengths to recover it.
Ms. Diamand’s novel came to publication after Reavers’ Ransom (the novel’s original title in the UK) won the first ever London Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, and I have to applaud the judges’ taste. Raiders’ Ransom is a complete surprise of a novel – behind its bubbly, almost cartoonish exterior, it is a swashbuckling adventure and a cautionary post-ecologocial apocalypse thriller, narrated smartly by two different and genuinely likable protagonists. I say this is a “surprise” of a novel because I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it nearly so much as I did – but once I got started with this book, I couldn’t put it down. From its engaging, action-filled plot and its compelling, wholly believable characters, Raiders’ Ransom is an incredible start to a very promising series, reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Yeah, I just dropped those two comparisons. That’s right.)
In terms of pure story and plotting, Raiders’ Ransom is awesome in its depth and its simplicity. The novel is deceptively slim, and deceptively quick to read. The writing is such that middle grade readers should have no problems picking up this book – but don’t mistake this for a dearth of sharp, carefully executed, hefty ideas. The simplicity of the book actually works to its favor – there’s no excessive, boring rundown of HOW exactly things became the way they are, no data-dumps concerning humanity’s demise into a sort of 18th century level of existence. That’s not to say that the Collapse isn’t exampined at all – but Ms. Diamand takes a much more clever route in examining humanity’s demise, dropping tantalizing hints and delightful little easter eggs (one of the Raider tribes is from “Chell Sea”, a Metallica t-shirt makes an appearance, and even Harry Potter rears his head in the novel). This also means that there’s little to staunch the flood of action in the book – which is another point in Raiders’ Ransom‘s favor. The pacing is impeccable; there’s nary a dull moment in the book. Furthermore, the simplicity of the writing only strengthens the impressions that the narrating characters make on readers – adding an even stronger sense of genuineness to these two young teen protagonists.
Ms. Diamand’s pose sparkles, as she has a gift for storytelling and first person narration – not only does she convincingly create a voice for a thirteen-year old fisher girl in a low-technology post-apocalyptic setting, she also manages to do it for an adolescent Raider boy as well. As each chapter alternates between Lilly’s and Zeph’s narratives, this easily could have been a confusing, jarring read – but Ms. Diamand creates such a distinct voice for each character, it’s easy to discern who is narrating at any given time. Heck, even the dialects of both characters are distinct (and as both of them speak in a sort of derivative slang, this is a pretty big accomplishment). The dual narrators also add a broader understanding of this futuristic vision of a drowned Britain, as told from the clear eyes of two very different children of two very different backgrounds. Lilly, an orphan and fishergirl, reviles the idea of marriage (at thirteen, she should already be paired off and married), and instead of letting her best friend face execution or merely accepting her grim fate following her grandmother’s death, she undertakes the dangerous task of rescuing Alexandra. She’s headstrong and brash, but a truly compelling heroine – especially for young female readers.
Then, there’s Zeph, the Raider boy who so desperately wants to impress his powerful father. The Raiders from Lilly’s perspective re boogeymen – pirates that will eat their captives, and burn and pillage anything in their path. But Zeph offers a different insight to the cutthroat world of Raider Clans and lends a humanity to a group that Ms. Diamand could simply have boiled down to “Bad Guys.” Zeph’s struggles, his sibling rivalry with his older (but illegitimate and therefore lower ranked) brother, his attempts to get his father and his clan to take him seriously and see him as a man are very compelling character storylines. There is so much potential for growth and explication here with Ms. Diamand’s characters; Raiders’ Ransom gives me the feeling that she’s only begun to scratch the surface of this compelling new world and her young characters. In this sense, the novel feels very similar to the world of Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter – with both first books, there’s this sense of wonder and the possibility for so much to develop as the characters grow older and their adventures continue. And this, dear readers, is a rare, beautiful gift.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Lilly’s dramatic decision:
When I get home, I hurtle about getting clothes, oilskins, a knife, extra rope, my rope splicing kit and what food I can find. Which turns out to be a bag of oats and some hard sea biscuits. Well I’ll just have to catch the rest.
“I’m going on Mrs Denton’s mission,” I say to the empty dark house. Hoping Granny’s there somehow, hoping she can hear me. “So I’ll have to take the money from the jar.”
I put my hand under Granny’s bed and pull out a small jangling jar. Granny’s savings jar, where she was hoarding every extra penny for the winter storms, when it’s too rough to go fishing. The coins rattle out of the jar and I put them into Granny’s purse, which hangs from a loop of leather. I put it round my neck, next to Granny’s locket. It ent heavy, there ent many coins in it, but it should last me. After all, things can’t cost much in London, can they?
I pat my shirt, where the bulge of the purse shows through. I reckon the purse should be safe from muggers, cos all that really shows of it is a bit of leather at my neck. But what about the jewel? All it’d take is one peek and any thief would be after me. After a bit of thinking, I take out my fishing belt. It’s got plenty of pockets for stashing spare line and hooks and all the other stuff you don’t want to go searching for when you’re out.
I wrap the jewel in a dirty cloth, then I squeeze it into the largest pocket of my belt, where it just about fits. It looks bumpy, but I reckon it’ll be safe. After all, who’d ever think there’s a big jewel inside a fisher belt?
I’ve got my bag on my back, and I’m heading for the door, when I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the dark window; round brown face, dark brown eyes, bundled up in stained oilskins, long hair tied back in a ponytail. Girl’s hair. But Mrs Denton said she was looking for a captain or a young lad to do her mission. I take the letter out of my bag, and carefully prise it open, trying not to tear the envelope too badly. I read down through her scrabbly writing, and all her fancy phrases. Halfway down are the words that matter.
“I commend this man to you. Please give him any aid you can.”
This man! I ent a man! How will I explain that to Mrs Denton’s London trader? What if he guesses I took the letter and the jewel? He’d never help me then.
And that’s why I take out Granny’s kitchen scissors, use the window as a mirror, and start to cut my hair. When I’ve finished, I look into the window and there’s a boy looking back at me. I lift my hand to my short hair, and he does the same. I open my mouth at what I’ve done, and he opens his right back. I’m a boy now. A boy who Mrs Denton could have asked to go on a mission.
You can read more about Raiders’ Ransom online at Emily Diamand’s official website HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Check out the awesome Japanese covers for the book:
Awesome, no? Also, check out the upcoming sequel, Flood and Fire out in May 2010.
Flooded England, 2216 …
Lilly Melkun has outwitted the bloodthirsty reavers, who prowl the waters that cover most of England – and has escaped to Cambridge. But Lilly is far from safe, because still in her keeping is PSAI, the last hand-held computer in existence – a now malfunctioning treasure from the past.
Inside the jewel-like computer, is a sinister- looking chip with an unknown purpose. Worse follows, when the professors of Cambridge plug it into an ancient mainframe computer, setting in motion a fiery chain of events leading back to London.
A false anti-terrorist alert has been activated. Strange, out-of-control robots from a long-ago technological time threaten to use ‘maximum force’ to control everything in their way. Once again, it’s up to Lilly, Zeph and friends to save the world from burning.
Verdict: If you couldn’t tell – I loved the book. It will be a fun adventure for younger readers, but also has some surprising heft and depth that will satisfy older ones too (there are no easy bad or good guys – all of the adults in the book are of questionable motives and allegiances, in a very C.S. Lewis kind of way). Absolutely recommended, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Witch and Wizard by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet
Hey, it’s another giveaway! We have ONE copy of Raiders’ Ransom to give away to a lucky reader. The contest is open to residents of the US only, and will run until Saturday December 19 at 11:59 pm (PST). To enter, leave a comment here letting us know what your favorite environmental (post) apocalyptic book or movie is. GOOD LUCK!
Sandra MorganDecember 18, 2009 at 12:42 pm
Oh wow, so far its been Oryx and Crake and the related Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I just love the way she writes.
Emily WDecember 18, 2009 at 1:31 pm
I loved Gone and Hunger by Michael Grant. Those two books I devoured and I cannot wait until the third book comes out!
Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!
AdrienneDecember 18, 2009 at 3:23 pm
World shattered, no food, no money, naughty pirates! Sounds awesome…I love naughty pirates 😆 Ugh, I have so many books added in my TBB list this week. I keep on chanting “must buy gifts, must buy gifts” hmm, favorite book in this area…I am torn between The Stand and now honestly Life As we Know It. I bought that on your recommendation and I think about that book all the time. I can’t look at the moon the same way anymore
DanielleDecember 18, 2009 at 3:27 pm
Boneshaker, Oryx and Crake and the hilarious Go-Go Girls of the Apocolypse 🙂
Enter me, if you please.
Ava NorthDecember 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm
BONESHAKER – CHERIE PRIEST
DAY AFTER TOMORROW
morganne wDecember 18, 2009 at 3:31 pm
Gone, by Micheal Grant. reading hunger next. plz enter me in the contest!!!!!!
RoxyDecember 18, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Gosh, I don’t know if I even have one. Maybe Waterworld with Kevin Costner… it’s not the greatest movie but I like it 🙂
Van P.December 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm
I just saw 2012 recently, and that is one of the best apocalyptic movie i have ever seen.
LadybugDecember 18, 2009 at 4:22 pm
I’m not entering the giveaway(I live outside of US) but I just wanted to say great review! Sounds like an amazing book. I have put it on my WL!
RaelenaDecember 18, 2009 at 5:46 pm
I loved Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
JenPDecember 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, for sure!
Caitlin UsignolDecember 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm
I am a really big fan of Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
JessDecember 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm
Life as We Know It is my favorite post-apocalyptic novel. Can’t wait for the third book in the series next year!
Raquel Vega-GriederDecember 18, 2009 at 7:24 pm
What Your Favorite Environmental (Post) Apocalyptic Book Or Movie Is.
I Would Have To Say It Is A Tie Between Mad Max And The Day After Tomorrow. Mad Max Was Just Such An Awesome Movie When It Came Out In 1979. Of Course I Was Little At The Time But When I Was Older And Watched It I Thought What An Amazing Movie. Then 2004 Brought Us The Day After Tomorrow And It Was Scary To Think That This Could Possibly Happen. They Were Both Awesome Movies Which Gave You A Different Perspective On Life After An Apocalyptic Event.
elizabethDecember 18, 2009 at 8:53 pm
The most unique one I have read recently was a slim little beauty called “The Stone Gods” by Jeanette Winterson
Jessica CapelleDecember 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm
Gone by Michael Grant. Such a fantastic book.
Thanks for the great contest!
MaryKDecember 18, 2009 at 10:32 pm
I liked Waterworld, too! Is that grounds to be barred from the disaster movie club? 🙂 And I liked MM Beyond Thunderdome! Yeah, I’m probably barred for life.
I also liked Reign of Fire, if that counts. I don’t like hardcore post-apocalyptic fiction because it’s usually so hopeless. I have to have hope! I’ve decided to play around in the shallows with lighter books, and this one looks promising.
Beverly H.December 18, 2009 at 11:09 pm
I’d have to say Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is my favorite post-apocalyptic book and Day After Tomorrow for my movie! Awesome Review 😀
Katee RDecember 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm
I actually enjoyed Day After Tomorrow (I only just saw it about a year ago).
And … don’t judge me for this, but I LOVED Waterworld. It’s cheesy and dopey but the thought of a world without land really appealed to me as a kid (which probably means I should read Flood).
RenDecember 19, 2009 at 8:53 am
Hmm “The Stand” is probably my favorite, and I just read “The Hunger Games” and that’s great too!
Linda HendersonDecember 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm
Okay, I’m almost embarrased to admit it, but my favorite movie is Wall-E. I’ve watched it a few times with my grandkids. Day after Tomorrow was okay.
AbbeyDecember 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm
Blind Waves by Steven Gould
Teresa W.December 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm
Swan Song by Robert McCammon!
PaigeDecember 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
jennygirlDecember 19, 2009 at 6:06 pm
Movie: V for Vendetta
Book: Hunger Games
Veronica F.December 19, 2009 at 9:01 pm
favorite environmental (post) apocalyptic
-book: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
-movie: 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle
I love this genre
KMontDecember 21, 2009 at 11:02 am
*The Prime Minister, furious at his seven-year old daughter’s kidnapping and the cowering villagers who did nothing to prevent the abduction, turns his wrath on the townspeople, forcing all the men and boys into jails with the intent to execute them all as an example.*
Oh my, Mr. Prime Minister sounds like such an ass. Does he stomp his feet whe he throws his tantrums too?
*Lilly cuts off her hair and masquerades as a boy*
One of my favorite tropes!
*Along the way, Lilly grudgingly befriends a young Raider boy named Zeph – who happens to be the son of the Raider leader responsible for the kidnapping.*
Oh sweet Convenience Monster burn! Does it come off as convenient?
*London Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition*
I’m sure people are proud to win this, but not knowing the context behind the name, I’m still chortling as I type that I’m chortling.
AnonymousOctober 9, 2010 at 2:30 am
AnonymousDecember 13, 2013 at 11:08 am
I loved Raiders Ransom. I got it from a very close friend of mine who didn’t feel like it was the right book for them. It was amazing and I loved it!