Dana wishes she wasn’t a princess. She’s always being told how to behave, what to wear. There’s a strangeness in the castle – why will no one talk about the Guardian, or the necklace that protects the land? And why does her father look at her with such sorrow? The collier’s cart seems the perfect escape. Only she didn’t realize she’d become so dirty, or so lost. Fortunately this boy, Will, has a sense of direction.
‘A true dream is when the events I see in my sleep have, or will happen. It’s a talent that runs in my family. I was thirteen when I had my first true dream.’
Will’s Aunt says the Kingdom of the Rose is the most fortunate of lands. But Will hates the place – his uncle and aunt are horrible, and he misses his parents. Oh, how he misses them.
Dana wishes she wasn’t a princess. She’s always being told how to behave, what to wear. There’s a strangeness in the castle – why will no one talk about the Guardian, or the necklace that protects the land? And why does her father look at her with such sorrow? The collier’s cart seems the perfect escape. Only she didn’t realize she’d become so dirty, or so lost. Fortunately this boy, Will, has a sense of direction. And next to the forbidding stranger, N’tombe, he seems reassuringly normal.
Welcome to A Necklace of Souls: a story of love and loss, of shattered lives and desperate hopes. In the Kingdom of the Rose, bravery is not always measured by strength and magic is real, if only one has the courage to dream.
Shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, A Necklace of Souls was awarded the Tessa Duder Award for Young Adult Fiction, Best First Book at the New Zealand Post Children and Young Adult Book Awards and is a Storylines Notable Book.
Will was twelve years old when the plague began. Winter in North Wales is always a dreary, damp season, but that year seemed particularly harsh. The winds blew strong and cold and the people were reluctant to leave their homes. Will’s parents, the town bakers, still kept their shop open but now customers arrived singly, and said little while waiting for their bread.
As the plague spread, Will’s familiar world began to change. First, the school closed. Normally this might have been something to be celebrated. But not now, not with the town locked in fear, and no one going in or out. Then the fishing boats at the quayside didn’t sail, either. Eventually even the church shut its doors. But by then the plague had spread, growing like a big black cloud, until it seemed to smother all the light. And in the bakery Will and his parents lay ill, unable to move, unable even to think, as the world spun slowly about them.
Will didn’t remember much of the illness, just a vague recall of heat and burning and endless, heaving nausea. Like seasickness but far, far worse – the sort of seasickness you might feel if the ship on which you were sailing had suddenly caught alight. For days he tossed about, thrashing his head on his pillow, calling for Ma. For anyone. But no one came.
Finally Will woke and lay blinking at the ceiling. His throat felt thick and tight, as though he’d been screaming for the longest time. Outside the world sounded eerily quiet; no shop bells, no wagon wheels creaking. No horse’s hooves, or people calling to one another across the street. Only the distant wash of the waves and the creaking of the shop sign in the wind.
All his life, Will remembered the feeling of waking into silence, the bitter knowledge of his loneliness in a wide, wide world. Because after the plague, everything had changed.
I hadn’t meant to write something quite so gloomy. So here’s another lively little piece. There are heaps of side characters in A Necklace of Souls. This is Nurse, written in Nurse’s voice.
‘You want to ask me questions? Why would you ever want to do that? Not to say that there ain’t plenty of things I could tell you about the goings on in this place, if I had the mind to do, but I don’t. Well then, I haven’t got all day. Go ahead and ask me your questions, then, if you must.
What’s that? How long have I been in the Castle? Goodness! Truth be told, I don’t rightly know. ’Tis many a long day since I arrived, that’s for certain.
My earliest memory? Well now, let me see. When you’re my age things jumble themselves together, and ’tis hard to remember anything in particular. I do remember waking from a long nap, and seeing the light sparkling on the water and thinking how pretty this place was. That must have been after I’d only just arrived, when everything was new-looking. The place has certainly changed since then. Things never change for the better, I reckon, only for the worst. At least, that’s been my experience anyway.
Take that blamed necklace. Used to be the simplest thing, only a ruby on a silver chain and never caused anyone any grief. But I knew it would change. Soon as I saw that little man holding it in that courtyard I knew it was evil. But them at the top didn’t listen. No, they thought they knew better than old Nurse, even though I warned them, so I did.
“Get rid of it,” says I to Her Majesty – the Queen that was, I mean. “Thing like that, ain’t to be trusted.”
But laughed and told me I was too gloomy. Me, gloomy? Anyways I was right, because now that necklace chains the Guardians down, so it does, and takes them young. Oh, ’tis a sad and sorry world, when people don’t listen to them as knows more than they.
Speak up, speak up! I can’t hear you. What do I do in my spare time? ’Tis crazy you are, thinking I’ve got such a thing as spare time. Up early I am, getting the Princess ready for the day, and like it as not I’m the last to bed too, cleaning her clothes and so forth. What with her with her fighting and her knives and her hose, sometimes it takes me hours to get the stains out. For shame, thinking I’d have “spare time”.
Mind you, I do enjoy working with wood. Made a whole bedstead once. Princess sleeps in it now, I know she likes it. Never told her it was me as built it. Strange in a way, ain’t it? I mean, when you look at me, you’d never imagine in your wildest dreams that I’d be one for woodwork. But then, you never can tell what folks get up to.
What’s my biggest regret? What fool of a question is that? You think I’m the sort of person who’s likely to be going telling that to a total stranger? Me, I don’t have regrets. Save for that ruby. I wish, well, ’tis crazy for sure, but I wish that they ain’t never found that thing. I know they all did it for the best. Still, look at the grief it’s caused.
Now, get along with you. Ain’t got all day to be standing here gossiping. Yes, lovely to see you, too. And do drop in again.’About the author:
My name is Rachel Stedman. I’m a physiotherapist (physical therapist) by background, but now I work as a freelance contractor. I live in the wild and windy place of Dunedin, New Zealand, with my husband and two kids.
I write mostly for children and young adults. In 2012 I won the Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished YA work and my first novel, A Necklace of Souls, was published by HarperCollins in 2013 (available in the United Kingdom and on Book Depository from June 2015). This year, A Necklace of Souls was awarded Best First Book at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards and won a Notable Book Award from Storylines. Inner Fire is my second novel.
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