REVIEWED BY TRICIA GILBEY
Annaliese Avery (Scholastic: 2021)
Recently, I attended a talk by Annaliese Avery who spoke about the journey of her novel, from conception to publication. Annaliese is a former library manager and children’s book editor who lives in Suffolk. Her Middle Grade debut, The Nightsilver Promise, was published by Scholastic UK in May 2021 and will be published in the US in November. The Nightsilver Promise is the first book in the epic Celestial Mechanism Cycle and, like all the best children’s books, is not afraid to tackle big themes — for example, the role of free will in our lives.
The idea for The Nightsilver Promise came to Annaliese while she was working as Educational Lead at Framlingham and Orford Castles. She was reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which showed her how richly imagined children’s books could be, and gave her the assurance and confidence that she could write a story that was layered and detailed, and that books like this had a place in children’s publishing. She began to invent her own world, sparked by medieval ideas about preordination. Her alternative London is governed by the science of CelestialPhysicists, and everyone’s life is foretold by the track tattooed on their wrists. When thirteen- year-old Paisley discovers from her track that she is destined to die, the race is on to protect her dragon-touched brother and find her missing mother.
Annaliese has built a world very different from our own, with a clockwork mechanism, floating boroughs, and people whoare ‘dragon-touched’. Yet some of her ideas come from places and things close to home. She built her universe around the idea of the orrery, inspired by her fascination with astronomy — she belongs to Darsham astronomical society, Dash Astro. Later, as she was writing the final draft,Annaliese remembered that during Victorian renovations a rood screen was left overnight outside the church of Wenhaston, and the rain dissolved the whitewash to reveal an amazing medieval doom. Annaliese inserted a doom in her Celestial Mechanists’ Chapel, as Paisley prepares to receive her ‘track’,a key moment at the beginning of the story.
It was fascinating to hear how the different parts of Annaliese’s world came to her at different times, so that each draft of the book made her world richer. So, if you have a chance to read and discover the world within The Nightsilver Promise, look carefully and see if you can find anything else you might recognise from our corner of our world, here in Suffolk.