Oh wow! This was a captivating, spine-tingling read imbued throughout with an underlying sense of danger in an environment of stifling heat, inspired by the landscape of Southern Africa. The writing is exquisite and lyrical and took me on the most incredible journey of fear, awe and heartbreak, but also let me see the incredible bravery and strength of others in the face of seeming hopelessness and abject loss … this really is a story to be devoured in a single sitting.
Twelve-year-old Amaya’s community is suffering from a dreadful drought which is threatening the destruction of their homeland. People believe that it has also awoken the terrifying Badeko, a creature that steals away children during The Switching Hour to feed upon their dreams, leaving their loved ones to suffer from the curse of the Sorrow Sickness, grieving for someone they can’t remember.
Amaya clearly adores her younger brother, Kaleb so imagine her terror when she wakes up one morning to discover he has disappeared, taken by the Badeko. Now imagine her guilt when she realises his disappearance is her fault. To add to this, her Granny Uma has been called away, so Amaya is left to take action on her own.
Well, not quite on her own, as she has the wonderful companionship of her pet goat Tau. I had a pet goat as a child – not very imaginatively called Kid – and remember fondly its stubborn nature and propensity for head-butting! Of course, I adored Tau who is courageous, protective and loyal … and so much more!
Blaming herself and feeling guilty, she is determined to rescue her brother from the grip of the Badeko. And this is where I must mention the cover illustration by Kelsey Buzzell which perfectly encapsulates the pervading sense of danger and oppressive heat throughout the story.
I’m not brave. I’m just too scared of losing him.
Amaya must be both brave and strong as she fights her constant fear on her dangerous journey through the suffocating heat of the forest to the Badeko’s lair to rescue her brother. Her journey is filled with incredible episodes of tension, awe-inspiring courage, and just the perfect amount of spine-tingling scary moments that kept me turning page after page with bated breath. The action is fast-paced as time runs out, as the Badeko plays tricks with her mind … Will her love for Kaleb be strong enough to help her face her greatest fear?
Friendship … courage … overcoming fears … this story is a perfect read for children of 9+ who I have no doubt will be just as entranced by Amaya’s brave adventure as I was.