The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon
The Lost Soul Atlas takes the classic story of the journey through the underworld and flips it. What if, instead of a hero’s journey through the underworld to save a lost soul, the lost soul is the one on the journey to save the hero? And what if the one who needs saving, in this metaphor, is everyone who has ever lived?
Twig’s afterlife is a fraught one (though not without comic relief in the form of his hilarious, wise-cracking raven-skeleton guardian), and it’s no surprise when we visit the memories of his time alive to find his life as a street kid in a dangerous city was just as treacherous.
The Lost Soul Atlas is everything we have come to expect from Zana Fraillon – a story about amazing, tough kids who have been dealt a terrible hand by life but who refuse to have their spirits broken – but it’s also something new: a rich and telling fantasy. The afterlife in The Lost Soul Atlas is honestly as full and robust as anything Philip Pullman has ever written, and I can only hope this is the start of Fraillon’s career as a fantasy author.
Fraillon has always had a beautiful command of language, and a topic as delicate as the afterlife – especially in a children’s book – could, with anyone else’s words, have become too scary or, even worse, too mundane. Instead, in Fraillon’s hands, it’s a work of art, perfectly balancing imagination and reality. Scary, sad and funny all at once, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. For ages 10+.