Cold comfort as teen confronts stranger in Arctic cabin

John Millen
John Millen |

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Ele Fountain’s ‘Lost’: a powerful tale of survival


By Marcus Sedgwick

Published by Orion

ISBN 978 1 48255 186 8

Marcus Sedgwick is a best-selling youth fiction author who offers his readers something different and challenging with each new book he writes. And Revolver is no exception - you won't have read anything like it by either Sedgwick himself or anyone else.

Revolver is well-written and played out by a small cast of characters in the snowy wastes of the Arctic. There aren't many people in this empty, frozen landscape, but Sedgwick focuses on them with laser-like precision, and does not waste a word telling us their story.

Sig Andersson is a teenager growing up in an Arctic community in the early 20th century. Eleven years ago, Einar, his father, brought him, his sister and mother there to make their fortune. Gold had been discovered in this ice-covered land, and small communities had quickly sprung up on the frozen plains.

A vast landscape but a tiny amount of gold. Only a few settlers there would make any money, and many would perish in the harsh conditions they had to face.

Life has been a struggle for Sig and his family from the day they arrived in this desolate place all those years ago. Sig's mother died when he was only five. The boy's world now is a single-room log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Einar never found one nugget of gold, and hope is running out.

One terrible day, Einar falls into an ice-covered lake and dies. His frozen body is brought to the cabin, and Sig's sister and stepmother go out looking for help. Alone with the body of his father, Sig is terrified, and suddenly, the frozen silence is broken by a knock on the door. A stranger - Gunther Wolff - strides into the cabin. He tells Sig that he has been tracking the Anderssons for 10 years. Wolff claims Einar owes him a large amount of money. Sig knows nothing of the gold Wolff says that his father has hidden. Has his father been keeping a deep secret from the family for the past 10 years?

Wolff and Sig are alone in the cabin and Wolff wants something that Sig does not have. The only thing that Sig knows his father has hidden in the cabin is a revolver. As Wolff reveals secrets from Einar's past, Sig's thoughts turn to his father's old gun, hidden in the storeroom "waiting for its moment".

Revolver is a powerful piece of storytelling with an icy grip. Sedgwick's clever plotting, wonderful descriptions of the frozen landscape and seamless interweaving of the past and the present show a writer who knows exactly what he wants his readers to experience.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]