M L Welsh, Heart of Stone

David Fickling Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0385617673

Verity Gallant is in her early teens and is a keen and accomplished sailor. She enjoys nothing better than being out on her boat with her friends Henry and Martha, or playing with her baby sister. This happy existence does not last long. Huge cracks in the earth open up in the town they live in; fine white sand pervades everything; massive landslips threaten lives; disturbing dreams disrupt everyone’s sleep. And the words in the books in Verity’s beloved library begin to fade. She and the others join Miss Cameron the librarian in a frantic race to rewrite them before all tales of optimism disappear, and with them all hope for humanity. Exhaustion takes over as they struggle to overcome the terrifying forces that the powerful and deadly Earth Witch has unleashed. When Miss Cameron is recalled to the headquarters of the Bibliothecary, an association of librarians dedicated to saving the world from evil (hurray for the power of librarians!), Verity is near to despair. But the wonderful Jeb Tempest arrives to work at the library, and she discovers a whole new set of troubling and exciting emotions. Danger mounts, and evil almost triumphs, but finally the resourcefulness and bravery of Verity and her friends prevail, and the threat of destruction recedes.

Heart of Stone is the sequel to Mistress of the Storm, but can be enjoyed on its own. Welsh writes beautifully. There is an old-fashioned feel to the characters and the setting - in many ways this could be a book written several decades ago - but this will not detract from its appeal to lovers of fantasy who want a compelling plot combined with depth of characterisation and emotional resonance.