The Book of Sand – Theo Clare/Mo Hayder

The Book of Sand

Spider is in the desert, together with a group of people that are now his family, or perhaps more fittingly, tribe. Together they are searching for something called the Sarkpont, a thing that a bunch of other families/tribes also are searching for, in a competition to be the first to find it before time runs out.

McKenzie is a teenage girl living with her family in the mid-US. She is fascinated by weather patterns and the dessert. One night she wakes up from a lizard crawling in her bed. She calls on her parents but the lizard is nowhere to be found. The lizard shows up more often, but strangely McKenzie is the only one who happens to see it before it disappears, confusing to her family. Before McKenzie is gonna do a presentation on a science fair the lizard shows up again, and she decides to incorporate it into her science presentation. This sparks of a chain of events that in the end gets her together with a boy named Newt, and the seem to share a deep connection somehow.

The narrative in this book is divided into two different timelines, one is set in some kind of purgatory desert where families are competing against each other to find a mysterious object called the Sarkpont. At the same time, they have to make sure not to be outside during some nights, when the Djinni are out hunting for humans. The families competing only have a certain number of tries to find the object, and if they don’t, bad things will happen. The other timeline is set in present day, and follows McKenzie as she is trying to figure out a mystery about certain memories she seems to have but are halfway forgotten, and what her dad actually does for a living.

What drives my interest in the first part is how these two timelines are going to be connected, because of course they are going to be in some way. The conclusion to this is somewhat satisfactory, and gives some clues to how the desert purgatory works. In the second half of the book, it’s more the mystery about what the families are searching for in the desert, and what will happen if they find it, or what will happen if they don’t that drives the interest. There is not much explained in the book about this competition, and it keeps it interesting as one is expecting an explanation in the end.

The characters that the story is centering around are well sketched out and pretty interesting. The surrounding characters doesn’t get much of a backstory however, and it’s perhaps because of that I’m finding it somewhat hard to care too much about them. But the focus is more on the family as a unit and how they fulfill different roles, so perhaps that can be forgiven somewhat. All in all it’s well written, mysterious and interesting, bordering a bit on science-fiction but perhaps falls more into the category of speculative fiction. My main concern here is that it was definitely meant to be a series of novels, as the ending is very much open. However, the author sadly passed away last year, as a result from Motor Neurone Disease. Before that she had completed first drafts of three more books, so we’ll see if someone picks up the threads from that. It would be nice to get the other parts, as it’s an interesting world and story being put together here.