I was delighted to discover another superb book by author and illustrator duo Lucy Strange & Pam Smy, which, like The mermaid In The Millpond, is another wonderful mix of historical fiction and myth. This story is firmly rooted in the land and lives of a mining family, but also cleverly entwined with the tale of the Minotaur and the labyrinth. Destined to follow in the proud footsteps of his father, his Uncle Jake and his late Uncle Mal, 9-yr-old George is reluctant to enter that dark world. He would rather find a job that puts his reading and writing skills to use, but there is no chance of that in the dimly-lit depths of the mine.
When George finds a secret book of myths and legends belonging to his late Uncle Mal, who lost his life during a mining explosion, he suspects he has more in common with him than with his father and his disapproving Uncle Jake. And it is this book, and his beliefs about his uncle, that comfort him when he encounters the shadowy ghost of a minotaur in the crisscrossed shafts and drifts that call to mind the fabled labyrinth.
But when a summer storm floods the coal mine, turning it into a death trap, George must trust his instincts about the ghostly figure if he is to save himself and the other children.
Packed with peril, immersive descriptions and atmospheric artwork that brings the historical period to life, this heart-racing story comes to a satisfying ending when the near-tragedy leads to a change in George’s landscape, and a seam of opportunity opens up in a future that appeared to be set in stone.
Accessible for dyslexic and reluctant readers in true Barrington Stoke style, there is also an interesting historical note about the tragedy that inspired this tale.