Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Scourge

The Scourge

A. G. Henley
For ages 13 and up
CreateSpace , 2012   ISBN: 978-1490368078

Generations ago people lived in houses in cities and life on earth was very different. Now the Scourge, a race of sickly, animalistic humans, wander from place to place killing and eating every living thing they find. Some humans have taken to the trees, where they are safe from Scourge attacks. Others risk living on the ground, but they have to take precautions when the Scourge turn up.

Fennel is a Groundling. She and her foster mother and brother live in simple shelters on the ground and when the Scourge come, Fennel’s family and the other Groundlings take shelter in nearby caves. They are safe in the caves, where they can store food to keep them going until the Scourge leave. However, there is no source of fresh water in the caves, which means that someone needs to venture out to get water every day when the Scourge are in the area.

Some years ago it was discovered that the Scourge do not attack the Sightless. For some reason the blind can walk among the Scourge without being harmed. Fenn is Sightless and now that she is seventeen it is time for her to do her “duty” and serve her tribe as their Water Bearer when the Scourge are about.

Transporting water from the pond to the cave is hard, so the Groundlings have formed an uneasy alliance with the Lofties, the people who live in the trees. A bow and arrow wielding Lofty Keeper helps the Water Bearer get to the pond, shooting at Scourge who get too close. Then the Water Bearer drags the filled water skins to a nearby tree and the Keeper carries the skins through the trees to a place near the cave where the Groundlings are hiding. In return for this service, the Lofties keep some of the water skins for themselves.

This arrangement has been in place for a long time and Fennel does her duty. She has been taught to despise the Lofties, but she soon grows to value her Lofty Keeper, Peree, who keeps her safe and who makes her terrible and terrifying task easier to bear.

Day after day Fenn goes to the pond, drags the bags of water to the tree on a sled and then makes her way home with Peree protecting her from his tree world above her. The two get close, and when a conflict erupts between the Groundlings and Lofties, Fenn refuses to punish the Lofties by denying them water. Doing so would be wrong, even if the Three tell her that that is what she must do.

The situation in the caves gets worse and worse and so Fenn decides that she will set off through the cave system to seek out the source of clean water that some believe exists in the caves. Somewhere. Many have looked for the source and have come home empty-handed. Some have not come home at all. Fenn feels that she is well suited for the task as the darkness of the caves will not bother her.

Fenn sets off on her quest and is soon joined by Peree. Lofties and Groundlings are not supposed to talk or have relationships, but Peree is Fenn’s friend and he cannot bear to let her go into the unknown alone. As they negotiate the vast cave complex, Fenn and Peree never imagine that they will soon find is a world that will change how they think about their whole lives.

This story is full of clever plot twists that will keep readers guessing the whole way through the book. It is fascinating to see what happens when Fenn and Peree discover that they have been lied to all their lives, and how they try to find a path that works for them.