Nevertell by Katharine Orton

This compelling debut novel is full of surprises; it starts like a historical fiction set during Stalin’s reign of terror but quickly morphs into a breathless life and death struggle with a powerful sorceress and her invisible wolf pack in a saga so steeped in Russian folklore and enchantment it transports the reader into another realm.

Nevertell begins in a brutal prison camp during the depths of a bitter Siberian winter, where inhuman cruelty turns some people into monsters. Born and acclimatised to this savage world, our protagonist, Lina, has an almost magical ability to grow food. This makes her an invaluable asset to a band of escapees who soon find themselves in a world more confusing and dangerous than the one they’ve left.

For Lina, life becomes a series of perils, each stranger and more treacherous than the last, until she finds the courage to believe in her own extraordinary powers. Her tale is one of hope, courage and survival, a celebration of friendship and the kindness and sacrifice of strangers. It stayed with me long after I’d finished. It surprised and delighted me with its unexpected turns and evocative storytelling and challenged my beliefs about crime, punishment and retribution.

This compelling page-turner, alive with mystery and breath-holding suspense is highly recommended for readers 10+.

Athina Clarke is the children’s book buyer at Readings Malvern.

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Katharine Orton, Rovina Cai

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