Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Holders

  '17-year-old Becca has spent her whole life protecting her brother – from their father leaving and from the people who say the voices in his head are unnatural. When two strangers appear with apparent answers to Ryland’s “problem” and details about a school in Ireland where Ryland will not only fit in, but prosper, Becca is up in arms.
   She reluctantly agrees to join Ryland on his journey and what they find at St. Brigid’s is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together information about their family’s heritage and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they’ve been waiting for—but, they are all, especially Becca, in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.'

Strange Chemistry, £7.99
  Julianna Scott's Young Adult debut, 'The Holders', will be released on the 7th of March from Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot's Young Adult imprint. Amanda in Strange Chemistry very nicely sent me an ARC a few weeks ago when I expressed interest in the Irish setting!
   Ryland Ingle is a boy who hears voices in his head, which turn out to be the thoughts of people around him. His sister Becca has spent her life protecting him, so is understandably annoyed when she arrives home from work one evening to find that their mother is entertaining two guests who claim to have the solution to Ryland's problem. They tell the family that Ryland is not mad, that he has a special ability, and that they would like to bring him to their specialist school to train him in using his ability. Sound slightly familiar? The bad guy in all of this is a former associate of the school, a man also possessed of amazing abilities, whose aim is to subjugate the portion of humanity who do not have these powers. Not familiar yet? The masters of the school suspect that this bad guy needs Ryland's power in order to fulfill his mission of domination, and believe that he is in immediate danger of being kidnapped. It seems a pity that such an obviously talented writer hasn't noticed how similar the plot of this novel is to a certain hugely-successful movie franchise.  
   The Holders, of whom Ryland is one, are an ancient group of Irish people with amazing abilities, which is why their school is in Ireland and why Ryland and Becca move there. The whole novel is infused with elements of the Irish language, Irish mythology, and the Irish countryside. Since it's such a huge element of the novel, I was disappointed that a little more time had not been put into ensuring that these were correct. The location of St. Brigid's Academy is given as 'Clare County, Ireland', which should have been 'County Clare, Ireland' - a tiny difference which perhaps betrays the decisions made to be appealing to American or Australian audiences rather than to be accurate. Most of the words and phrases translated into Irish are incorrect to some extent, which is unfortunate as I don't think it would have taken too much time to have an Irish speaker proof-read the dozen or so words and phrases.
   'Dubh Inteachán' (dubh = black, inteachán = iris) is given as the Irish for the Black Iris, a powerful artefact at the school. This breaks one of the first rules of Irish syntax - that an adjective is placed after the noun it describes (Inteachán Dhubh would have been correct).
   The baffling sentences 'Is breá liom tú ró, mo lómhara. Tá tú gach rud a dom.' appear three quarters of the way through the book, and they're a bit of a mess. Let's break them down:

Is breá liom = I love (but is used to describe strong feelings for a movie or foodstuff, definitely not correct for telling someone you love them!). The correct word for describing romantic love is grá, so the phrase should be 'Is grá liom'.
tú = you
ró = too (but means 'in excess' rather than 'also': ró-tabhachtach means too important). The correct way to say 'also' would be 'chomh maith' (directly translates as 'as well').
mo lómhara = my precious (hilarious, but not incorrect)
Tá tú = You are (not incorrect, but 'Is tusa' would be nicer)
gach rud = everything
a dom = this is intended to mean 'to me', but 'dom' is a prepositional pronoun which by itself means 'to me'.

   The corrected version would look more like this: 'Is grá liom thú chomh maith, mo lómhara. Is tusa gach rud domsa.'

   *Rant over*

   Plot aside, or if you happen not to have seen the movie 'X-Men', this is a well-written Young Adult novel. Scott introduces a believable new teen voice in the main character, Becca, and a host of interesting peripheral characters, ideas, and settings. I loved Min, a rare female Holder who teaches at St. Brigid's Academy, and Becca's love interest, Alex, manages to be sexy while avoiding any 'bad boy' clichés with his squeaky-cleanness. It's a fresh new voice and, at the end of the day, that's always a good thing.
Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99
   I've half-read a lot of good books this week. I've still got 'The Shadow Rising' by Robert Jordan, part of my on-hiatus epic re-read of the Wheel of Time, on my To Be Read pile. I've added to my half-read burden now with Catherynne M. Valente's 'Deathless' and Justin Cronin's 'The Twelve', and I last night started what is possible the most perfect book in the world for me at the moment - 'The Wisdom of the Shire' by Noble Smith. It's a hobbit-style self-help book, featuring chapters with titles like 'How Snug is Your Hobbit-hole?', 'Sleep Like a Hobbit', 'Eat Like a Brandybuck, Drink Like a Took', and 'The Lore of the Ents'. It's funny as well as touching - in an early footnote, the author notes that 'after losing the One Ring, Sauron could only appear as a lidless eye ringed in fire. The disembodied Dark Lord of Mordor was incapable, therefore, of enjoying strawberries and cream.'
   On that note, farewell!  


  1. I just stumbled across your blog and it looks great. Books and baking - it's like peanut butter and jelly. I enjoy your review style as well. You address the character issue well and make some good points.

  2. Thanks so much, I'm glad you're enjoying it!