Newt has been living and working in the horrendous conditions of Bearmouth mine from an early age, never emerging on ground level because the pay is so low and it costs money to go up. Life is horribly hard and awful rules must be accepted or the consequences are even worse. Any kind of way out isn’t even contemplated until Newt meets Devlin, who starts to ask questions.
This truly unique and breathtakingly brilliant debut will blow your socks off. Although written in a Victorian style dialect, and after careful research into child labour and Victorian mines, this is no ordinary piece of historical fiction. The voice of Newt is completely original and haunting and the world-building within the Victorian mine is masterful; it almost feels like dystopia. The story is exciting, ambitious and completely unpredictable: the kind of book to read in one sitting, quite breathless. Liz Hyder is a really exciting new voice in children’s literature.
There is an LGBT+ theme, which cannot be discussed in this review for spoiler reasons, and a dark hint of abuse that may upset younger readers. This, combined with the dialect and new words, make it an upper-level middle grade read into early teen.