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Ebony Hill: Book review

Reviewed by's Anna Gowan

Anna Mackenzie's previous novel, The Sea-wreck Stranger, won both the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction, and an Honour Award in the 2008 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. With these credentials, writing the sequel must have been a very daunting prospect indeed.

Ebony Hill finds teenager Ness living in the city of Vidya, two years on from her escape from the Island of Dunnett with her friend, Dev. The polluted Vidya is a city in ruins, and Ness does not feel like she belongs.

Ness leaves Vidya to work within a tight community on the home farms, who supply food for Vidya. Within weeks of arriving, Ness is caught up in a fierce battle for territory which sees the residents of the farm under fire from a guerrilla operation, and not all will survive.

It's not necessary to have read The Sea-wreck Stranger to enjoy this novel. While slow to start, Ebony Hill is a dramatic, unpredictable read that should appeal to readers beyond its target demographic.

Anna Mackenzie has created a strong and independent heroine in Ness, who, much like the characters in John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began series, finds herself an unlikely participant in an unforeseen war.

It's a little tricky to keep track of the many supporting characters in this novel and not all seem necessary to the plot. However, at its core this novel is a coming-of-age story of survival that should keep teenagers reading late into the night.

Rating: 8/10

Ebony Hill by Anna Mackenzie
Publisher: Random House
RRP: $19.99
Available: Now