I knew nothing about this one before it was sent to me, in fact when the lovely Sally Oliphant at Usborne noticed I was hosting YAD2 and offered to send me a couple of Dystopian books that were on her desk, I had no idea what would be arriving until they did!
The cover of this one immediately drew my attention. As the name suggests, this is a retelling of the well-known Pied Piper of Hamlyn folk tale.
Set an unknown amount of in the future, where a mysterious illness has decimated the population and continues to ravage the survivors.
The remaining population is deeply divided between the Cratz (the haves) and the Citz (the have-nots), with the street children even further down the chain.
Enigmatic teenager Crow, does what he can to protect the children, fishing the meagre stocks in the city’s stinking river and earning a few pennies busking in the better off parts of the city. There is something “off” about him, however. The unwavering loyalty these children have for him, appears to go beyond his ability to find food and protect them.
Fourteen-year-old Tanith, has a secret of her own. Passed on to her only a few days ago by her grandmother on her death-bed. The two first meet as she heads into the city, unable to stay in the little house she and her grandmother shared.
Despite a mild disability, Tanith’s inner strength coupled with completely indifferent response to Crow’s normal charms, creates an interest in the girl that he normally would not have, and when she is snatched by unsavoury elements in the city, he sets out to rescue her.
Despite this she is still naturally reticent of putting her trust fully in Crow, even though, he clearly cares for the children around him. There are still questions. But they are both going to have to trust each other enough to reveal their secrets and move forward. Because a long-held rumour, about what happens to the children who go missing off the streets, is discovered to be disturbingly true, and they must gather the children and get them out of the city without being caught.
Only, is where they’re going any safer than the city?
This turns out to be a really likable retelling of the Pied Piper fable, but being aimed at the younger end of the YA market, it leaps into the action straight away and we only get a little exploration of the world outside of Crow and Tanith’s adventure, I couldn’t help but think that another 10 pages on the book, expanding on the history of the world, the Citz and Catz social split, the “sickness” that has so obviously savaged the world and continues to do so, would just have given so much more colour to book, and for me would have lifted it from a strong “Sector 3” to a comfortable “Sector 2”.
It doesn’t mean however the book doesn’t ask complex questions though, because it certainly does. Is it better to be free, but live on the streets, constantly hungry, and at risk of death. Or to be, well fed, healthy and relatively happy, but essentially be a slave? What would you choose? What would you choose for those under your care?