A heart-racing ending, Denika Mead
Children of the Furnace: Crosstrees
Copy Press Books
03 March, 2021
“Hear the rhythm, Wil, and feel the heartsblood warm…”
Crosstrees is a YA dystopian novel by Nelson author Brin Murray. It was published in 2018 and is the second in the Children of the Furnace series, the first of which was a finalist in two categories of the New Zealand Book Awards 2019.
Crosstrees is set in a dystopian world after a climate change catastrophe and the land is now controlled by a group called the Revelayshun. Under their harsh rule, the two main characters, Wil and Leah, must uncover the mysterious truth that is destined to change everything. But the Revelayshun will do anything to make sure the truth stays buried. The book holds warnings of a dark future that can emerge through greed and fear, if we don’t take care of our environment and each other.
While you could read Crosstrees as a standalone novel, I would recommend reading the first in the series, The Burning, beforehand so you are familiar with the world and characters. Often, the second book in a series starts off slowly as the author tries to catch new readers up on what has happened in the first book. Crosstrees is not guilty of this. Murray launches right into the action, instead of spending time re-introducing the characters. This gives the novel an exciting, fast-paced feel.
Crosstrees is narrated by the two protagonists, Wil and Leah, and their separate voices are very clear. I found Leah’s point of view easier to read: “Sometimes I grow angry, and tell him his strong leadership is simply tyranny by another name;” whereas I found that Wil’s perspective took more time to understand. Wil hasn’t had a good education, so his speech patterns and spelling mistakes can make it hard to read. “…cuz she took that mighty whack to her head at the Burning and has got concushun.” While this made reading Wil’s sections occasionally confusing, slowed my progress and sometimes distracted me from the plot, it did allow me to feel as if I was with Wil and helped me connect to him. Having such clear character voices helped me delve deeper into the story and I felt invested in the characters.
Wil and Leah have a deep relationship, which grows stronger throughout the book. Their bond is the calm in the eye of the storm and is heart-warming to read.
My favorite character is Jace, a squad captain. He doesn’t let his feelings show and buries everything. Sometimes, he appears almost robotic. “…and could see the little softness behind the flat eyes…” I enjoyed seeing how his character evolved throughout the book as we understood more about his personality.
There was a time when I put the book down and I found it hard to pick it back up again. I think this was because I found the violence in some of the scenes a bit intense. But I am so glad I continued reading, because I loved the second half, and sped through it. The ending left my heart racing.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend Crosstrees and the full Children of the Furnace series to anyone who enjoys action-packed dystopian novels that have a strong relationship at their core. I enjoyed the first book in the series more than Crosstrees, but was glad this novel had a slightly different tone. Some series can feel like one long novel, and the characters don’t grow much. This is certainly not the case with this series. The first book in the series has a firm place on my shelf of favorite books and this one is going right up next to it. I’ve just got my hands on the third and final instalment, Heartsblood, and can’t wait to get into it.
- Denika Mead is 17 and lives in Wellington. She published her debut fantasy novel Royal Orchid, The Death-Hunters, in October 2019 when she was 15. The prequel to Royal Orchid, Into the Flames and the next book in the series The Ghost Warriors, were both released in 2020. You can find them on her website here.