Sky Dancer

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Sky DancerA compelling story about overcoming grief and how hope really can be a feathery friend.

Gill Lewis’s Sky Dancer, due out in October 2017, opens with grief stricken Joe and his older brother Ryan scattering their father’s ashes with their mum on the moors in northern England. Having died from a heart attack in prison, the family are blighted by Joe’s dad’s actions as gamekeeper of Hartstone Hall, where they rent a cottage in the grounds. He shot and killed a hen harrier, an endangered bird, which is illegal. His imprisonment and resulting death has broken the family. Like his father, Joe’s life is the moors that Henry Knight of Hartstone Hall owns and Ryan is desperate to be the next gamekeeper, following in his father’s footsteps. But the town in the valley is against Hartstone’s lucrative grouse shooting business, a centuries old blood sport that damages the moorland and causes flooding in the town.

Joe has grown up riding the moors with Henry Knight’s entitled daughter, Araminta, and their friendship is threatened when newcomer Ella and her mum rent the neighbouring cottage after a family break-up. Ella falls in love with the moors and turns everything Joe believes on its head; a world where heather is no longer burned, eroding the land and wildlife, a world where the forests and animals are encouraged to return.

But when history seems to be repeating itself, it is a hen harrier that divides families, friends and community but ultimately unites.

Complex characters, environmental themes, dealing with loss.

In Sky Dancer, you feel like you’re actually exploring the moors with Gill Lewis’ vivid descriptions and her complex but very real characters grip you from page one. Gill handles big issues with skilful simplicity; the environmental impact of an old upper class tradition, the enormity of grief in childhood and how friendship and purpose can heal. The complexity of Joe’s grief after a difficult relationship with his father keeps you rooting for him to the end.

It is refreshing to read about altruistic children who are not locked to a screen, instead connected to nature.

Friendship defying class barriers through united love of the environment.

Ultimately, Sky Dancer is a story about friendship; three friends all saved in different ways by secretly rearing the new life of a baby hen harrier chick named Hope.

Three friends, three very different backgrounds find common ‘moor’ ground together: a love for their environment and a belief that things can change if you stand up against all odds and fight for it.

Have you walked on the moors or seen hen harriers too? Let us know what nature means to you…


Gill Lewis
Oxford University Press

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