cage_of_rootsEach month, Sally Vince reviews a book about Clare or a book by a Clare-based author. This month Sally reviews “A Cage of Roots” by Matt Griffin.

 “Magic exists beneath our feet, if we only know where to look …

“Growing up in a New York orphanage, Ayla has no idea who her family is. It is not until she comes to Ireland that she finds out just how deep her roots really are. Then her past rises up to haunt her and seeks to destroy her as Ayla is abducted and buried alive in the bowels of the earth. Above ground, her three best friends set out to find and save her from a fate that has been lying in wait for centuries. Guided by Ayla’s uncles, they must make a treacherous journey that takes them down among the very roots of time.”

This is a marvellous book! It is aimed at children of ten years and older, but even though I am a little older than that, I loved it. It is dark fantasy, but includes humour and the reviews show that even children as young as nine are enjoying it immensely.

It opens with 13-year-old Ayla waking up in a pitch black, small underground prison. How she ended up  there and why is revealed slowly throughout the following chapters. Her thoughts while wondering what has happened to her introduce the reader to her background and the other characters, who are: her friends Finny, Benvy and Sean, and her uncles Lann, Fergus and Taig – big, strong men who are her protectors. The six of them set off to rescue Ayla and travel through modern Ireland to an Ireland slightly* older, when the uncles were young. (*Slightly = three thousand years.)

The three rescuing teenagers face up to their inner fears as well as those posed in real life. The story is about loyalty and friendship and thinking of others before yourself. As the friends become stronger mentally, the uncles deteriorate physically and it is up to the teenagers to rescue Ayla.

Ayla meanwhile is also having to face up to her fears and her captors … and having to survive on goblin stew, which is described in rather more detail than this squeamish reader can cope with. The story ends [spoiler alert!] with Ayla being rescued, accepting her destiny and starting another adventure … but we have to wait for that to be published before finding out what it is. It’s probably not going to be pretty, but you can be fairly sure it will be exciting.

The illustrations are also by the multi-talented Matt Griffin. They are fabulous and really add to the story.

The tale is set in Ireland and is loosely based on Irish mythology, but you don’t need to know the history to enjoy the story. It’s a great book, and I can’t wait for the next one.

Available from:
Published by O’Brien Press and available from their website.
Local and national book shops
Find the author:
Website (see more of Matt’s illustrations)
Twitter @ACageOfRoots
Interview with the Clare Champion, 16 April 2015
Love Reading 4 Kids Reviews and interview with the author