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This is YA fiction with sharp edges but, ultimately, a deep heart. A wonderful collection of short stories from emerging writers, showing teens dealing with the harshness of life adrift on a drowned world.
The first two stories are brief and shocking - in Empire we see the lengths that some will go to survive and protect their families, and in Bad Little Pirates four teenagers plan an escape from a horrendous punishment. These stories give a glimpse of the cruelty of a world in which there is no longer room for morality.
The next stories pull the reader deeper into some of the post-flood communities. Between the Devil is a riveting coming-of-age adventure set amongst a community of fliers, that cleverly contrasts two societies and a conflict between social order and individual freedom. This has some great dystopian touches such as the 'morning rats' and 'unauthorised reproduction'.
In Blood Harmony, twins become separated and must undertake epic journeys between floating islands and evade pirates to find each other.
There is a stand-out piece of metaphoric description at the start of Darling and Morrison, and the story then delves deeply into the life of a boy coming of age in a small and vulnerable whaling community.
The Fish and the Freak is a moving and exciting story set amongst the poor and abandoned living on the margins of a large trading community. This story takes us through love, heartbreak, bravery, loss, and ultimately hope. I found the struggles of the freaks to obtain enough fresh water to drink particularly moving.
The final story, Heart in Mouth, rounds the collection off with a girl who goes from nearly being killed to finding a new place for herself. There is a lesson here in the thin line between enemy and friend.
I recommend this collection to older teen readers as being something special. Each story is strong individually, each giving a unique glimpse of this alternative future. Yet, surprisingly, they are held together by common themes, particularly the importance of family and what people will do for the sake of their loved ones under the most terrible circumstances. You would be hard-pressed to find a collection with a deeper heart.