When I was asked to take part in the blog tour for this book I thought that I would check on what other books were out there, which featured highwaymen rather than outlaws or pirates. I did this because the only title that had sprung to mind was “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, illustrated by the incredible Charles Keeping. What I discovered is that there really aren’t that many titles featuring this type of outlaw; so in order to remind myself of the titles I have put them on a Pinterest page https://www.pinterest.co.uk/booklib61/highwaymen-in-childrens-books/ . However I would be delighted to hear about more fiction titles that feature highwaymen and will endeavour to add to my list whenever I hear of a title.
Anna Rainbow has written a fantastic story, set in an alternative world where magic has only recently been banned. There is a feeling that the story reflects some of the atmosphere from the alternative history stories of Joan Aiken, as well as others where the chronology and royal line has been tweaked. The story centres around eleven year old Bramble Browning and her friend Ernest (a fanatical fan of highwaymen and the iconic ‘Diamond Jack’ most of all). Life takes a strange turn when her older sister goes off to visit their aunt overnight and their grandfather (who looks after them) is kidnapped from his shop, by three evil highwaymen. Bram suddenly get an overwhelming desire to go and look in an old shed in the garden, but has no idea why? What she discovers, hidden away is a face mask, which when she tries it on makes her appear to be an adult, specifically the notorious highwayman ‘Diamond Jack’. The question is whether Bramble can use the mask to save her grandfather, as well as foil a plot to kill the queen and put the queen regent on the throne? Our heroine is joined by a group of friends who are determined to help those in need and to prove that ‘Diamond Jack’ only steals in order to help those who are poor and in need of help.
I absolutely love this story, the only down side being that I keep getting an ear-worm of “Stand and Deliver” by Adam Ant every time I look at the brilliant cover, illustrated by Isabelle Follath. This is very much a story about family and friendship and in particular we have the way that Bramble’s sister Lena tries to protect her, even though she had done similar things when she was Bramble’s age. The use of the magical masks (there are three in total) can perhaps be seen as reflecting the way that most people hide behind a public face, which can be very different from what they are like inside. Bramble’s best friend Ernest is one of those wonderful characters that you take to your heart. He is loyal, kind and loves celebrating the fact that he enjoys making clothes, as well as being a great believer in the good that his favourite highwayman does. What a totally amazing and fast paced story this is; you really need to hang on tight as you ride ‘hell for leather’ through the adventure of a lifetime. The stars are definitely out and shining for this book and I highly recommend it. What a great television series this would make.
About Anna Rainbow
Anna grew up and still lives in North East England and works as a Clinical Psychologist with people with disabilities. Anna loves music and has always been in various choirs, singing quartets, bands, and orchestras.