I don’t typically review young adult (YA) fantasy here, but I felt compelled to muse a little on Jaclyn Moriarty’s entertaining A corner of white, the first book in The colours of Madeleine trilogy. There is a crack between worlds, joining our world with the Kingdom of Cello. Most cracks are filled-in by those on the Cello side before they grow, and the penalty for not reporting a crack is death.
Madeleine Tully is a once-privileged teenage girl who has run away with her mother from a wealthy father in Paris to a life of home-schooled struggle in Cambridge, England, where she is confronted with the increasingly disturbed behaviour of her seriously ill mother, Holly. Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, Cello. He’s a boy of similar age who is trying to piece together the mysterious circumstances of his father’s disappearance a year ago. And he is not the only missing person. Cello is a strange place in which different Colours have different influences on the populace. Some make people goal-oriented; others make them fall in love; others maim and kill. Seasons come and go when they feel like it. There are also ‘Wandering Hostiles’ who are against the incumbent royal family. And there are very unusual and distinct districts that add flavour to the mix as well.
The crack between the two worlds is discovered by Elliot and Madeleine, and soon letters are being passed back and forth between them that draw them together as they come of age and seek solutions to these and other problems affecting not just them but the fabric of their communities. At first Madeleine doubts the existence of Cello, and Elliot spends a bit of time convincing her of its existence. The people of Cello know about the World, although there information is a little dated, but because of the consequences of not reporting a crack, most are filled-in promptly.
There is a cast of friends on both sides, as well as outsiders seeking welcomes, and others seeking answers to failed crops and the reasons for why the magical Butterfly Child that Elliot has caught is failing to remedy the farms’ ills. There are also some very strange royals in the Kingdom of Cello, some of whom are on a tour of the districts and provide humorous and odd reports on their travels. Some of these plot strands seem superfluous until they are expertly brought together by Moriarty in wonderful plotting that certainly satisfies readers of this book and serves to set-up the rest of the trilogy.
Given we’re fast approaching the festive season, keep A corner of white in mind for those younger readers in your life. Although the science behind the cracks that join the Kingdom of Cello with ‘the World’ is not explained, there are many other bits of science that are, such as the science of Isaac Newton, colours, gravity, computing and on. And Lord Byron gets a role too. Younger readers will love the intrigue, the letters, the science both explained and unexplained. Those of us who (still) haven’t grown up will find elements to enjoy too.
A corner of white by Jaclyn Moriarty
Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: a gift