Stormwalker by Mike Revell
Publication date: 19 May 2016
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Approximate reading time*: 2 hours, 15 mins
Published by: Hachette Children’s Group, Quercus Children’s Books
Available at: Amazon.co.uk, Goodreads
(*Reading time is based on the time it took me to read it.)
Something strange is happening to Owen.
One minute, he’s living a perfectly ordinary life: school, football, video games, hanging out with best friend Danny.
The next, he finds himself sucked into a terrifying dream world, a wasteland where a terrible Darkness plagues his hometown, threatening the lives of everyone in it.
Owen can’t control when he enters this world, or when he gets to leave. All he knows is that he has to help fight this terrible Darkness.
But what is this world?
Why is he here?
And what if he never gets to go back home?
**Contains some spoilers**
At first, I was bothered by the subtitle on the cover of the book “the hero is a lot like you”. It seemed an unnecessary telling to any prospective reader that they will be able to relate to the book, because they can be the hero of their own story. Yuck. That sentiment might be true, but I find it unnecessary to blazon it on the cover of a book. It was only when I began reading, and the dad says this line to his son (the main character, Owen) as part of a teasing description of the story he has begun writing, that I understood the subtitle in a different light.
Owen’s dad hasn’t been himself since Owen’s mother died of leukaemia the year before. Writing used to be the activity that lit him up and made him sparkle, so it’s no surprise that Owen wants to find a way to get his dad writing again. When Owen’s dad does start writing, and starts to seem like his own self again, Owen is delighted. But then something strange happens; it seems as though Owen is literally being written into the story.
The world which his dad creates is haunted by the Darkness. It is a post-apocalyptic place where (at least in the world that extends as far as Greater London) the human race has all-but been wiped out. The survivors valiantly battle with the Darkness to gather supplies, and build upon their camp, until they can make contact with the City, and the two other known teams of survivors.
Owen is different from his comrades in that he can access both the thoughts of his character (a boy named Jack), and his own thoughts and memories. This could have come across as schizophrenic, but is presented in a way that felt plausible, and I readily accepted.
Owen has an important football game coming up, which will likely be attended by a talent scout. He worries that getting dragged into his dad’s story will lead him to miss the game. But when Owen starts fighting against being dragged into his dad’s story, his dad gets writer’s block and starts regressing to his depressed self. Owen finds himself torn between what he sees at the biggest opportunity in his life, and helping his dad finish the story. Owen thinks that if his dad can finish the story, his dad will be “fixed”, that life will be ok again, and they will both be able to stop grieving and start living.
The Darkness is clearly a metaphor of depression, and the Dreamless (those souls who are lost to the Darkness) are described as being beyond help. Ultimately, it is facing the Darkness and facing the fears that it tortures with, that enables Owen to defeat the Darkness. This seems to be the message of the book: that by facing your fears, you can start beating depression, and that your rescue is in your hands.
There is a moment in the book where Owen persuades his dad to attend a parent’s evening, and conspires with his teacher to get his dad talking about the story in order to give him the confidence to keep writing. It is here that the true purpose of the book is openly stated. I found this, too, to be jarring and unnecessary.
Overall, it is a pleasant read, and an interesting representation of grief, depression and the effect it has on the sufferer and their family. I didn’t care much for the sub-plot following Owen’s football ambitions, but perhaps this is because I don’t care much for football.
There are some lovely moments, and even a couple that elicited an emotional response.
Thank you to NetGalley.com and Hachette Children’s Group for providing me with an advanced copy of this book.