From the BLURB:
Whether it's a curse or a blessing the fact remains: whenever Roger is in enough pain he can cross over to the Land of the Dead and speak to the people there. It's an unexpected gift - and one that, throughout Roger's life, his violent uncle has taken advantage of. Roger has been hauled from fairground to fairground and beaten into unconsciousness, in order to bring word of the dead to the recently bereaved. It's a hard, painful way of life, deceiving the living for a crust of bread. So when Roger has the chance of a new life, it seems a gift. He has a chance at safety and at living a life of his choosing, tucked away in the royal court. But life is unexpected and when Roger falls in love with the bewitching, willful Lady Cecilia he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. With every step he takes towards her, he is drawn deeper into court intrigue, into politics and even into war...
‘Crossing Over’ is Anna Kendall’s debut YA novel.
Roger is just a child when his uncle Hartah discovers he has a profitable talent. Roger can cross over into the land of the Dead. But he must be on the brink of death himself to make the journey... thus begins Kendall’s novel as we witness Roger’s numerous near-death beatings at Hartah’s meaty fists.
When Roger sees an opportunity for escape, he takes it. Freedom brings Roger to the Royal Court, but no closer to safety. He finds himself at the beck and cool of the Queen who has her own uses for Roger’s death talent. Later, Roger is caught between two Queendoms who use his ability to go to war with one another.
Though he also finds love with a lady of the Queen’s court, Cecelia, Roger’s ability is but a pawn in a battle he is forced to influence.
This was an admirable debut for Anna Kendall, and a very different YA fantasy.
The nuts and bolts of the book are brilliant. Roger’s ability to communicate with the dead is fascinating and eerie, further Gothicised for his having to be near-death in order to speak with them. Brilliant! The beginning of the book is quite sad and harrowing for Roger’s down-trodden existence at Hartah’s fists.
Kendall’s portrayal of the land of the Dead is wonderfully spooky. It is a land that reflects the living world but with fun-house-mirror differences; the land stretches and distorts, time slows and the dead sit peacefully examining stones and flora. Reading about this in-between place of death will give you delicious chills for Kendall’s deft descriptions.
“Please do not.” Her voice was reasonable, but reason barely holding back a storm of emotion.When Roger arrives at the Royal Court the story turns to political intrigue. Roger finds himself a pawn between duelling Queendoms and his abilities are used by both Queens to get the upper hand. The political plot is delicious and cunning, a wonderful compliment to the fantasy storyline. The action does dip and wane in the middle of the book... but stick with it, because the final stretch is a hell-raising thrill ride.
“Why? To find a silly girl who doesn’t care three pennies about you?”
“I have to go, Maggie.”
The storm broke. “WHY?” she yelled. “To be killed? To have your soul taken? Why?”
“That’s a folk tale. No one can take souls from the Dead.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes,” I said slowly, “I do.”
One thing that didn’t work for me was the love story. Roger is quite young (14-15) so maybe that’s why the romance felt awkward and clunky to me. You can definitely tell that Kendall struggled to incorporate romance for her rather young teenage character. It reads as though she wants Roger and Cecelia to be hot n’ heavy, but is wary of writing anything overtly graphic, so you end up with this not quite substantiated romance. Kendall jarringly mentions Roger’s erections and raging hormones, but the spark between him and Cecilia wasn’t there for me. Kendall may have had an easier time of things (and more romantic freedom) if Roger had been 17 or 18-years-old?
‘Crossing Over’ is an impressive debut for Anna Kendall. This is a very different YA fantasy novel with a Gothic bent and a wonderfully tragic hero.