I'm delighted to host Saturday's stop on the Furthermoor Extract Blog Tour. Below I will be sharing my review of Darren Simpson's fantastic third book and you can click here on the link to read the exclusive extract of Chapter Three: The Tunnel Tree (continued).
I have championed Darren Simpson's books since the brilliant 'Scavengers' came on the scene in 2019 (my review here). Since then magnificent 'The Memory Thieves' has come out too (my review here). But his latest has really blown me away. 'Furthermoor' is Darren Simpson's best yet: raw, daring and beautiful, in form and content it is a highly immersive, emotive and startling read.
The real world is a hostile place for twelve-year-old Bren, his schooldays stalked by vicious bully, Shaun, and his family life fractured at home. Ever since his sister Evie died in an accident, Bren's only safe space is Furthermoor, an imagined world of mechanised trees and clockwork animals, where Evie is still alive. In Furthermoor, no one can hurt Bren... until the mysterious Featherly arrives. Now Bren is forced to confront his deepest fears and decide if his place in the real world is worth fighting for. Enter a world as vast and dark as your imagination, in this unforgettable coming-of-age story about courage, friendship and finding your voice...
Darren Simpson doesn't just write stories, he writes colossal structures: junkyards like cities, islands like prisons and the imagination like a glittering tower. 'Furthermoor' is the latter. With conceptual and narrative power, Darren Simpson has brought to life one boy's staggering imagination as a refuge to the bullying he faces in the real-world and the grief he experiences at the loss of his older sister, Evie. As he writes in his author's note, Darren was not out to write a fantasy; instead this is about the power of the imagination to overcome oppression, from bullies and from the inner voice that says you don't deserve the world.
It is an important and challenging read for these themes, but oh how it is so, so beautiful and emotional too. Descriptions of both Bren's imagined world and the real-world are staggering and poetic in detail. Darren has this incredible ability to describe life, from the mundane to the magnificent, in sublime sentences that can be raw like bruises or razor-sharp and propulsive like clockwork. Underneath the layers there is true heart too. The realism that Darren brings to life in Bren's inner and outer battles, the dialogue he has with friends and families and the responses from all characters has real, emotional punch - so much so that a later chapter that didn't feel the same, actually had its own twisty purpose!
This book brought out a lot of emotions in me too; it helped me remember my run-ins with bullies at school, but how actually, like Bren, I managed to find my courage and voice to stand up to them. As a Key Stage Two teacher I think this is an important book, particularly to return to during Anti-Bullying Week, but with all important books, some children may respond sensitively or emotionally to its story and message. It is also an exciting, spellbinding, wonderfully written book, and I really need to use passages in class to show how writing has its own power of escape.
A big mention needs to go to Anna Kuptsova for the amazing cover illustration too!
Bravo, Mr Simpson! Keep up what you're doing! It's all magnificent.
Thank you to Usborne for my copy to review.