By Frances Hardinge
“Do cursers really exist? (Yes.) Can cursers really set someone on fire, steal their shadow or turn them into a swarm of bees? (Yes.) Is it true that the power to curse comes from spiders? (No, the Little Brothers are not spiders, however much they look like them.)
Only those consumed by hate are able to curse. The Little Brothers gift them with a curse egg. Whilst inside them, the curse egg feeds their hatred, it wants to be released.
Kellen is an unraveller, living in the country of Raddith, paid to rid people of their curses. In order to lift it, he needs to unravel the reason why they were cursed in the first place. This is not easy, but not impossible. When his task is complete he moves on to find more work, abandoning the once cursed person to pick up the pieces of their life.
Nettle is Kellen’s constant companion, who survived being cursed by her stepmother. She was turned into a bird along with her siblings. Kellen unravels Nettle and returns her to her human form but she cannot forget how it felt to be a bird. She is quiet and fierce and never leaves Kellen even though he is rash and selfish. It is Kellen’s rashness that sees them thrown into prison without a penny.
Gall is a Marsh horseman, fearsome and bound to his Marsh horse, a creature from the deep wilds. The price for this horse was a single human eye. Gall’s eye. It is a bond that cannot be broken.
He has come to make Kellen and Nettle an offer to free them from prison in exchange for their help. There is a conspiracy afoot and a curse to be unravelled, but can Gall be trusted? And can Kellen find the source of his own curse before his whole world unravels?
Frances Hardinge has conjured up a fragile, gritty, and dangerous world where no one can be trusted and hatred is bubbling just beneath the surface.
I love all of her books and this did not fail to blow me away. Perfect for fans of gothic world building and macabre mysteries. 12+.