Uprooted from Bath by his father's failures, Gideon Belman finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says (Orme is the Old English for worm or dragon). Growing up in a house that hates him, Gideon finds his only comforts in the land, where he will live or die in the shadow of the Orme, as all his family has.
This is a beautifully observed, utterly absorbing tale that grabs hold of you from the off and doesn’t let go even after you’ve read the last word. Strong and bold, this is a dark coming-of-age tale, full of familial deceit, recriminations and abuse, but also has some lyrical touches of brightness to it. The characterisation is vivid and understated, the use of locations is masterful and the pacing is pitch-perfect, with just enough told. Even better is the elegant writing, a turn-of-phrase here, an small mention there, burying the complexity of the tale in apparently simple language that must be read to be believed. I absolutely recommend this book, a masterpiece in the making - I loved it.
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|Phil Sloman, Priya and me at Edge-Lit 5 in 2016 (which I wrote about here)|
I had the image of a small boy taking refuge in a cave that formed the sleeping dragon’s ear. A lonely boy who’d been hurt and the Orme was his only friend and confidant. That’s where the story started.
PS: Thank you!
I had to trim the story down to submit it to Tor during their open period for novellas. I lost a good 5000 words, which I found difficult. I worry that some of the nuances of the relationships were lost. I had a strong sense of Gideon and his parents at the outset, but they developed as I wrote and rewrote. It’s an old piece, so has had a lot of reworking.
There are things I worry that I’ve not fully conveyed when I look at it now. Perhaps I’d edit it differently. For example, Maud craves female friendship and there’s a burgeoning friendship between her and Clare, before Thomas stamps all over it. I had to cut a whole chapter set in church, where Eliza is being shamed for being unwed and pregnant. The father is the abusive schoolmaster. I wonder if I’m too light handed with my signalling for that in the schoolroom chapter.
I don’t judge my characters. They are what they are. If I’ve given the reader that impression, that’s a failing in my writing.
MW: You didn't give this reader than impression, I can honestly say! So what are you working on now?
This is her official bio, but I'd also add that she's wonderful company and has the best handwriting of anyone I've ever met.