Wow! There has been a lot of hype and praise heaped upon this book, but never has it been so deserving. From its opening, jaw-dropping beginning to its exhilarating climax, 'Orphans of the Tide' is a fantastic adventure swimming with detail and myth - with menace lurking in its depths.
Anyone can be the Enemy... So when a mysterious boy washes into the City in the most extraordinary way, everyone wants him dead. Especially the powerful Inquisition who have always hunted the Enemy in its different forms. One young inventor, though, by the name of Ellie, believes that he is innocent and she will do anything to protect him, even if it involves revealing her own disturbing secrets.
From the off, 'Orphans of the Tide' captures the imagination in such a startling way. Struan Murray evokes a surreal, gothic atmosphere to challenge Pullman himself; the world-building is brilliantly realized and quite unlike anything I have read. There are whale lords and ruthless Inquisitors and orphans with talents and charm. There are churches and drowned ruins and bustling markets. Everything is drenched in such glorious detail. And it is worth praising illustrator Manuel Sumberac for capturing it all in such uniquely magnificent drawings. (He'd be my illustrator any day!)
Story-wise, there are huge revelations which are truly exciting - twists that take risks to expand the world's mythology and plunge the reader into deeper narrative waters. 'Earthsea' is another comparison here, and I sense that Murray could emulate the kind of brooding, philosophical heroics that Le Guin managed. 'His Dark Materials' meets 'Earthsea'., surely? In 'Orphans' every character is rendered in technicolour and have a part to play in the proceedings. I loved Ellie's story-arc, and I loved her boisterous, though endearing and loving nature.
There is so much to admire about 'Orphans of the Tide': its lyrical prose, its gothic, mythic atmosphere, its twists, turns and splashes. I absolutely loved it in every way. Bring on the sequel!