Thought-provoking and gripping, Nell Mace-David
Walker Books Australia
05 March, 2021
‘Cerels, you are of inferior blood, you must not taint those of superior breeding…’
Fifteen-year-old Leho is a boy of ‘inferior blood’ in the city of Ursa. And it sure is a scary way to live. But that’s how it is in Ursa by Tina Shaw. The city, which has the same name as the title of the book, is ruled over by a cruel Director, who has been the leader of Ursa for nearly as long as Leho can remember. Ruled over as in strict segregation. That’s where the inferior blood thing comes in.
Leho is a member of the repressed side of the regime. His father has been taken away to a wild camp and his mother is blinded for rebelling against the Director. And now the minions of the Director, called Black Marks, are taking even younger men to wild camps. The book’s cover, which symbolises for me the crushing of hope, illustrates exactly what is happening.
People say a revolution is coming. Leho knows he should stay out of it; stay safe for the sake of his mother, but his older brother is helping and he feels he is ready to help. Surely he’s old enough. But then his decision is made for him when he ends up getting a job in the Director’s very own garden.
Then, by mistake, he meets a Travester girl, a girl he should never have seen in the first place. As a forbidden friendship starts to bloom, danger also becomes apparent. As horrible is Leho’s life is, does he really want it to change?
Tina Shaw has written a deeply moving story of the horrible consequences of separating people because of who they are and what they look like. Shaw shows what this does to family, friendship, and daily life. What it would feel like not being able to walk down the street without fearing for your safety.
This book is an alternate history, but at times it had a futuristic feel to it. The setting wasn’t immediately apparent, it kind of showed more of itself as the book went along. This wasn’t a bad thing though, I liked it. Overall, this book was very good and well written. The characters were vivid, and though I couldn’t relate to their situation, I felt like I understood them. I found it slightly slow for anything major to happen compared with other books I have read. You know when you are asked what your book is about, and you don’t really know yet? I felt like the main character didn’t really have an aim and was just showing you how he lived for a while. It got better though, and I really enjoyed reading the second half of the book. I couldn’t put it down!
This book was great, but I found it a bit sad. Living like they do in Ursa would not be a nice way to live. It’s sad to think that it has happened though. It really gives you insight into why segregation is such a horrible thing, and so wrong. I would definitely recommend this book to people who like adventure novels set in history, but with a difference. I would recommend this book to most readers, but definitely ages 12 or 13 up. For those of you out there who love a good story — and a good think — this book is definitely for you.
- Nell Mace-David is 12, homeschooled, and lives in Dunedin.