Unusually, Children of the Different was directly offered to me for review by the author to coincide with its publication date. Would I enjoy it as much as the stream of Netgalley arcs I normally read?
Nineteen years ago, a brain disease known as the Great Madness killed most of the world’s population. The survivors all had something different about their minds. Now, at the start of adolescence, their children enter a trance-like state known as the Changeland and either emerge with special mental powers or as cannibalistic Ferals. In the great forest of south-western Australia, thirteen year-old Arika and her twin brother Narrah go through the Changeland. They encounter an enemy known as the Anteater who feeds on human life. He exists both in the Changeland and in the outside world, and he wants the twins dead.
This post-apocalyptic science fiction/fantasy mash-up immediately feels different in that Flynn vividly depicts the Australian landscape, which features throughout, helping to define the mood and frame the action. I quickly bonded with the main protagonists, especially Arika, but I can imagine any teenage boy would equally enjoy reading and identifying with Narrah’s adventures. It is a relief to read a YA book that is absolutely age-appropriate – I’ll have no qualms in offering this read to my granddaughter in another year or so, when she is old enough to appreciate it. The unfolding love stories – which are a minor aspect of this adventure – are sensitively and sweetly handled.
However, don’t go away with the impression that this is some soft-edged, cosy take on a post-apocalyptic world. Life is a gritted struggle for survival and I love the way that Flynn manages to convey the hardship of everyday life in the Settlement without going into undue detail. One of the strengths of this book is the pace as the narrative drives forward, often taking abrupt turns in a different direction. There are a number of twists – a couple I saw coming, but the big surprise near the end caught me completely unaware, bringing this book to a satisfying end although there is definitely scope for a sequel.
I enjoyed the magic running through this book with its uniquely Australian flavour. The Changing sequences are very well done and especially Arika’s power once she’s changed is beautifully described. All in all, I was charmed by this engrossing, genuinely exciting book. The inevitable violence manages to be scary and horrifying without being too graphic, while the sense of threat is palpable as both children encounter a number of formidable characters throughout their adventures without knowing who is a friend, or part of the Anteater’s army trying to destroy them.
I often have to zone out irritating formatting errors and mis-spellings while reading arcs. It’s part of the deal. However, given this book is produced by an indie writer, I feel it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t notice a single mistake and the formatting was spot on throughout. I may not be the target audience, but I have no hesitation in recommending this entertaining adventure for fantasy fans, young and old, who would like something different.