I am so pleased to have been asked to take part in the blog tour for this wonderful book. I hope you enjoy my review and an article by Ruth Morgan herself!
Title: The Comet and the Thief
Author: Ruth Morgan
Publication date: 6th October 2019
Publisher: Gomer Press
The Comet and the Thief is a fresh, fantasy time-slip between two periods in British history: Georgian and Medieval.
Kit, a born actor, hates being a thief in eighteenth century London. When wicked Lord Colwich hires him to steal a missing page from a mysterious medieval book in his library, it results in Kit having to flee the city…
Do you ever read a book that makes you want to meet a character in real life, and give them an enormous hug? That’s how I feel about Kit. Not that Kit needs a hug from me. He’s strong and independent enough not to need any mollycoddling from me – but he’s still adorable and deserving of one.
The Comet and the Thief is a gorgeous book in many respects but Kit is the most beautiful of characters. He goes through a traumatic event, is hunted, fearful, but never loses sight of his morals and what makes him a good person.
I love this book for its pace (it does not hang around, I can tell you that much), its plot, story, character-building, the whole lot. It’s such a wholesome, warming story but with a kick of adventure and friendship.
What I also loved, on a very specific and personal level, was its ability to evoke a strong and vivid memory. Unsurprisingly, the book features a comet (Halley’s comet) which I sadly have not seen but hopefully will do in 2061. What I do remember, however, is seeing Hale-Bopp in 1997.
This is important because I could relate so strongly to the characters who were seeing Halley’s comet for the first time. They were excited, fearful; although when I saw Hale-Bopp I don’t recall anyone seeing it as an ‘omen’ (I’m sure there were people who did!).
Morgan is a wonderful author with a sense of adventure but also what makes a person good. And the world really needs good people right now.
Highly recommended for all but likely to be a hit with middle-grade audiences. Get it in ready for the long Autumn nights.
Thanks to Gomer Press for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Warding off Witches: The Comet and the Thief [Ruth Morgan]
It’s ironic. At the start of The Comet and the Thief, our main character Kit his sneaked into an apartment in the same building where he is a squatter and where a group of rich and important men with an interest in the black arts are attempting to conjure a demon. With a love of acting and a need for cash, he pretends to be a demon called Ashentoth and puts on a hair-raising, fortune-telling, over-the-top performance, for which he his handsomely rewarded. Yet he spends the rest of the story trying to persuade the people he meets and those who mean most to him that he really, really isn’t a demon, nor is he dabbling in black magic.
The Comet and the Thief is set in two historical periods in British history: the eighteenth century which is Kit’s own time and the medieval period he travels to. He isn’t the only character in the story who’s suspected of witchcraft and for a while, the air is thick with suspicion and accusations, particularly when a comet appears in the sky which is seen as another bad omen. While I was doing my research, I discovered lots of ways in which people long ago, who believed the world was ruled by good and bad spirits, tried to protect themselves from witches and demons. When medieval Zannah first sees Kit, he appears to her as a face in the mirror which hangs beside the door of her grandfather’s cottage. This has a real resonance because medieval folk thought the entry points of houses: doorways, windows and chimneys were weak points, places where evil beings could get in and for that reason, they needed added protection.
This summer I was staying in a beautiful house, Halsway Manor in Somerset, which is the National Centre for Folk Arts and was fascinated by the ‘witch marks’ on the sixteenth century fireplace, which was actually moved to Halsway from a manor house in Shropshire early in the last century. These patterned circles were often carved into stone, plaster or wood near the entry points to houses: the doors, windows or fireplaces where evil beings might creep in. They occur again and again, all over the country. The six petalled flower or ‘daisy wheel’ which is one of the marks on the fireplace at Halsway, is the commonest pattern and it has been suggested that the intertwining lines were supposed to ‘entrap’ the evil spirit, stopping it from entering the house.
In his own time, Kit does a lot of travelling and later on in the story, he is accompanying a group of Welsh drovers on their journey to London. These drovers were a bit like cowboys: tough guys who moved cattle and other animals from the farms of Wales hundreds of miles across the country to be sold at English markets, notably Smithfield. In the eighteenth century, this would mean travelling on foot beside the animals as they made their way across England. In the days before the railways, drovers carried news and messages around the country, and were often entrusted with carrying money and documents too.
The leader of the drovers, Daniel Price, begins to have his worries about Kit and news he hears from some passing drovers only confirms his fears that Kit is mixed up in evil doings. He gives Kit a sprig of rowan, advising him to wear it to ward off evil spirits. The rowan tree, also called the mountain ash, has from ancient times been seen as a protection against evil. In Norse mythology, Thor was saved from being swept away in a river, by hanging onto its branches. In British folklore, it would either protect the place where it was growing or a sprig of it could protect a traveller and it was particularly good at protecting cattle. Now is the right time to see red berries on the rowan tree and if you look at the underside of a berry, you will find a tiny black five-pointed star or pentagram, another symbol which has been used traditionally to ward off evil spirits.
Poor Kit. Wherever he goes, people fear him and think the worst of him. And yet he is not the one they should be fearing and the comet which accompanies this thief might just turn out to be a good omen…
About the author
Ruth has been writing for children and YA for more than 20 years, everything from picture books to novels, plus many scripts for animation and radio series. She is also a part-time teacher at a local primary school – a constant source of inspiration. In the small amount of time that’s left, she loves to dance, play ukulele and stargaze.
You can follow Ruth on Twitter @alienruth and Instagram @ruth.morgan.ant.clancy
Will you be reading The Comet and the Thief? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you a bookish week,