As I mentioned in my previous review (for Ready Player Two) my mum just died (on 14th December) and for that reason I decided to read this young adult fantasy novel by Frances Hardinge because I was looking for a gentle ‘easy’ read. Well, I should have know better than imagining that a Frances Hardinge novel wouldn’t pack both an emotional and intellectual punch! This is a deep, rich and incisive story mostly about growing up and becoming your own person. The main character, Hark, is a young orphan who lives in the shadow of his overbearing and manipulative friend and must find his own way when he is convicted of petty crimes and sent as an indentured servant to a island retreat for old ex-priests. All priest in this universe are now defunct because the gods were killed but a vast often criminal empire revolves around finding old ‘god’ artifacts because they contain magical properties. Hark is caught between priests, scientists and various criminal gangs all trying to exploit the magic and he has to struggle to know who to trust and what is the right thing to do. Like the previous book I read, this took me a while to get into, but once I did I found it gripping, compelling and ultimately satisfying.