Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Maureen Rylance - The Spur on the Plate

Title: The Spur on the Plate
Author: Maureen Rylance

ISBN # 1412054591

Publisher: Trafford

First Published: 2005

100 pages

Format: paperback

Rating: 7/10

1529 - The England/Scotland border - a wild lawless place where families made their own law and stealing from each other was part of daily life. Meg and Rob Armstrong despair at the hardships of their family, a family, until recently, rich, respected and probably feared by many, for their uncle is the notorious Reiver, Johnnie Armstrong. Meg blames her father for the hard times as he will not ride out and provide for them. She thinks him a coward and a lay-about, yet her mother fiercely defends him. Headstrong and
wilful, as always, Meg decides to goad her father into action. But does she know the full facts of the situation? She makes her stand but is shocked and terrified at the force of the reactions from all around her. Even her young brother Rob will not stand by her side. She finds herself forced to ride out on a raid with her father's men. The raid goes badly wrong and Meg realises that she has brought all those she loves into great danger. The lives of her father, her brother and her uncle, as well as her own, are threatened. Remorse, guilt and fear and the disclosure of a family secret make Meg desperate to make amends. But, is it too late?

Aimed at perhaps the 12- to 15-year-old market, The Spur on the Plate is one of those books that is just right for getting those not so interested in reading to pick up a book. At 100 pages, it’s not at all intimidating, and from the very beginning draws the reader into the lives of Meg and Rob Armstrong with ease.

The setting of Scotland was especially appealing and the historical aspects of the tale are well-researched (you won’t see any tartan-clad Highlanders tramping through the heather in kilts!). The dialogue flows quite naturally and because of the novella-length, the action takes place over a short period of time which makes the pace quite thrilling.

The themes of growing up and discovering that things aren’t always as they seem to young eyes are universal and ageless, so despite being set almost 500 years ago, young people will still easily identify with the characters.

This is one of those treats to enjoy on a wet afternoon - while the wind whistles outside; the reader is effectively whisked away to another time and place.


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