Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen

The Blurb On The Back:

There’s a hundred ways to start this story, a hundred ways to tell it.

Each one is impossible.

Each one, unbelievable.

But it did all happen and I promise it’s all true.

In Ethiopia, Ageze has unearthed an ancient device that can make predictions.  It tells him there is a date, there is a place, there is a moment when it will happen.  A disaster that will change everything.

Halo Moon loves stars, and the night sky is full of them in her remote Yorkshire village.  It’s a place where nothing interesting ever happens, let alone a catastrophe.

So when a stranger appears at the end of a near-impossible journey and tells her lives are at risk, she can barely believe it.  But if she doesn’t help Ageze, everything and everyone she knows might disappear for ever …

You can order Halo Moon by Sharon Cohen from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

12-year-old Halo Moon lives in the remote West Yorkshire village of Thribbleston with her parents and grandmother.  Halo loves astronomy, especially staring out at the stars and the meteors that fly through the night sky with her telescope and when 12-year-old Pedro Ortega moves into the house next door with his sister and mother, they bond over star gazing.

12-year-old Ageze lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with his parents and two younger sisters.  When he discovers the parts of an ancient device near a church, he manages to put them together and get it working.  The device has writing on it in the G’ez language and he discovers that when activated, it warns the user of an impending disaster.  And it’s pointing to a catastrophic event that will happen several thousand miles away, in a small village in Yorkshire.  Ageze knows that somehow, he needs to warn them …

Sharon Cohen’s standalone fantasy novel for children aged 9+ does well at showing the tensions in young friendship through the jealousy Jade has for Halo due to her friendship with Pedro and features a largely positive depiction of a modern Ethiopian child (albeit at times it strays towards the “Magical Negro” trope) and I liked Halo’s interest in astronomy but the story itself is quite pedestrian and never caught fire for me.

There are positives to say about this book.  For starters, I thought the emphasis on Ageze’s middle class home life – his mum is a teacher and his dad a wind farm engineer – to be really refreshing.  Given the cliche of Ethiopia as a poor country, it’s really good to see a successful, loving family and Ageze is a smart, hard-working and dedicated character.  However, at the same time, the focus on the silver strands in his hair and the nature of his arrival in Thribbleston did seem uncomfortably close to the old “Magical Negro” trope and I had to wonder at Ageze’s naivety on his arrival in London.

I liked Halo’s love of star-gazing and astronomy and her developing friendship with Pedro is nicely depicted (although I did find Pedro’s backstory a little redundant).  Her relationship with her nan and with Norman (a young man with learning difficulties caused by a brain injury) is sympathetically done (although I disliked how Norman became a plot point in the final quarter).  Also good is the tension in her friendship with Jade, who can be self-absorbed and in a hurry to be cool and grow up and who is envious of Halo’s friendship – and maybe something more – with Pedro.

However there are so many characters in the book and, ultimately, not a huge amount of plot, which means that the pacing didn’t quite work for me – especially as there’s a lot of set-up for Ageze and his device and Halo with her friendship with Pedro.  As a result, the book never really caught fire for me and that wasn’t helped by the fact that most of the plot points are fairly predictable.  Ultimately, it’s not a bad book but it never quite gelled for me.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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