Written by Marcus Sedgwick
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Ella McNulty (age 15)

1910: the Scandinavian Arctic. Sixteen-year-old Sig Andersson’s stepmother and sister, Anna, are out. He is alone in the log cabin, save for the corpse of his father, Einar, frozen to death trying to cross the treacherous ice on the river – something long experience should have warned him to avoid. So why did Einar take the risk?

Then a stranger knocks at the door. Gunter Woolf insists that Einar owes him a half share of his hidden gold. Sig knows nothing of any gold but Woolf is not taking ‘no’ for an answer – and he has a gun. Can Sig get Woolf out of the house before his stepmother and Anna return?

This gripping story moves between 1910 and 1899, just after the discovery of gold when men in the thousands poured into the area. Einar, one of the first prospectors, knows that instant wealth is a delusion. He works in the Assay office, weighing the gold brought in by men desperate to make a fortune. Among them is Gunter Woolf, a man Einar soon realizes is ruthless and determined. Einar is not rich, so why does Woolf think he is?

Marcus Sedgwick’s books have been shortlisted for many children’s book awards, and it shows. Revolver is a meticulously constructed book; the clues are dropped in so skilfully that they are almost imperceptible, yet each one is there, ready to detonate at exactly the right time.

Sedgwick gets across the desolation of the Arctic, a place where life is stripped to the bone and where men, or boys, have nobody to rely on but themselves. It’s about finding your way, even when death stares you in the face, and having the courage to choose the right path. I found it both a nail-biting and a perceptive read.

For boys of 12 plus, though girls should enjoy it as well.

Elizabeth Hawksley

I really liked this book. Early on, there is a great description of the process that leads to a bullet leaving the neck of a revolver. The plot of the story attempts to work the same way, with all the elements, all description, from things as small as the use of hair oil, eventually coming together to produce a bloody and satisfying climax, and for the most part it succeeds. All mystery was supposed to be explained, but I thought there were still some gaps at the end, like for instance why the father chose to walk across thin ice, but for the most part, I think this book is well worth reading, to see everything suddenly gel and click, to produce the ending. The book, as the author says, revolves around a revolver and the Arctic Circle. Although all the characters remain very slightly drawn, what follows after the opening scene-setting is fascinating.

Ella McNulty, Age 15