DARK REMAINS, a young adult novel by Sean McMahon, is the story of two damaged children and the harrowing journey of their survival. Told from the point of view of the thirteen-year old heroine, the story deals with poverty, abandonment, and cruelty to children in the 1840s, long before the great social reformers of the early twentieth century took up the plight of society’s abused.
I loved this book. Reading it was exciting, like the first read of OLIVER TWIST. Mr. McMahon’s prose sparkles. His sense of history shines. The seamy side of 1840s London comes alive in the pages of DARK REMAINS.
It is 1842 and Maggie Powers and her younger brother, Tom, are mudlarking on the banks of the Thames. From the first sentence, we are caught up in the story:
There was no reply. Maggie cupped her hands to her mouth – ready to call once more, when a small boat, drifting down the centre of the river, caught her eye and distracted her for a moment.
Their mother is dead, their father imprisoned because of his role in Chartism, one of the earliest worker movements. Led by Maggie, the two children search for food, shelter, and Mr. Turner, a friend of their father who is bound to help.
Although Maggie has the perception and moral compass of an adult, even she can be tricked. Before their odyssey ends, brother, sister, and sidekick, Jack, take up with Charlie and his gang of homeless children, scavenge for food, have a brush or three with the law, are pursued or assisted by vivid characters worthy of Charles Dickens. They witness murders in the dark of night, meet and are kept by the haunting Countess Jouvente who claims to have fled persecution in France. The ending features the redoubtable Mr. Blake, a character modeled after England’s early detectives.
There are adventures in every paragraph, twists at every page turn. Action is punctuated by letters or quotes from documents having to do with the Chartist movement or with the imprisonment and appeal of Thomas Powers.
I highly recommend the book to readers of all ages who love a breathless adventure in another place and time.
My Rating: 5 Stars
About the Author. Sean McMahon lives in Liverpool, England and Dark Remains is his debut novel. He is currently working on the second novel in the series, and hopes to publish sometime during 2012.
Dark Remains is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.