Song for a Scarlet Runner

Julie Hunt

Song for a Scarlet Runner
Allen & Unwin
25 March 2013

Song for a Scarlet Runner

Julie Hunt

Winner of The Readings Children's Prize 2014

Peat is on the run - forced to flee for her life when she’s blamed for bringing bad luck to her village. She heads for the endless marshes, where she’s caught by an old healer-woman who makes Peat her apprentice and teaches her the skill of storytelling.

But a story can be a dangerous thing. It can take you out of one world and leave you stranded in another - and Peat finds herself trapped in an eerie place beyond the Silver River where time stands still.

Her only friends are a 900-year-old boy and his ghost hound, plus a small and slippery sleek - a cunning creature that might sink his teeth into your leg one minute, and save your life the next.


Nine-year old Peat and her big sister Marlie live in isolation at The Overhang, banished from the nearest settlement because of Peat’s heritage. There they tend cows and long for the infrequent visits from their aunt Wim. Peat has an ambitious mind, so when a Stranger turns up one day she’s desperate to find out anything he’ll tell her about the world beyond. Sooner than she’d imagined, Peat’s longing for adventure is granted when she’s forced to go on the run and leave her beloved sister behind. When Peat is rescued from danger by an eccentric old woman - a marsh auntie called Eadie - who wears a coat bearing a thousand pockets, little does she realise that the greatest peril is yet to come. Eadie, a renowned storyteller, needs Peat - but why?

From the start, the simple, lyrical prose and Peat’s warm character drew me in. The detail of each landscape that Peat travels through builds a vivid picture. Each supporting character is one you’d be happy to follow into more tales than this single adventure can hold. Particularly charming are the Marsh Aunties, a group of crabby old women in constant rivalry, each with a unique talent. Of these Eadie is the most intriguing, with her ability to hear everyone’s thoughts - a gift and a curse.

Peat’s allies are equally original, with the unpredictable ‘sleek’ a regular if confusing companion, one minute bringing her food, the next viciously biting her. Here the lines between good and evil are pleasingly blurred.

Song For A Scarlet Runner is about the gift of storytelling, the price of selfish bargains, and of one life weighed against another. Generously open to interpretation, elegantly written, with a brave and thoughtful hero, this is a classic fantasy adventure for 9+.

Emily Gale

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