July 01, 2013

Century - Sarah Singleton

Title: Century
Author: Sarah Singleton
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release date: 2005
Pages: 220

* Mercy couldn't remember the last time she'd seen the little pond. So long, long ago, in the spring that never returned, when the pond was a cool green jewel, floating with the ghostly jelly of frogspawn. But the flower reminded her of January past, when the pond was skirted with crowds of snowdrops. Harbingers of spring in the darkest days. Had the flowers bloomed again? She hadn't found any snowdrops but she now knew that the pond held a secret of its own.*

Mercy and her sister Charity live in a twilight world, going to bed just as the sun rises. Their house remains shrouded in perpetual winter, each day unfolding exactly the same as the last. Mercy has never questioned her widowed father about the way they live - and why - until one day she wakes to find asnowdrop on her pillow: a first sign of spring - and a nod towards a new future. 
A meeting with the mysterious Claudius unsettles Mercy and starts her on a winding path through the family's history, unearthing clues about her mother's death and their house frozen in time. But as each piece of the past slots into place, the world Mercy has known begins to unravel... Can she discover the truth without destroying her home, her father and all she has ever known?

The setting of Century is ideal for a gothic novel: it completely takes place on the estate of the Vergas family, somewhere in England. The manor seems truly real and the beginning could first appear to be of a historical novel were it not for the ghosts Mercy sees. Unless most fantasy books though, the ghosts of Century are not playing an active part in the plot. They are extremely important, as they will lead Mercy on her way to find the truth, but they are in another universe and so cannot interact with the main characters.
Mercy is an extraordinary girl. Not only can she see ghosts, but she is also strong and wants to discover her family’s history and have answers to her questions. She has to fight in order to achieve her aim but she cannot rely on anybody else than herself. Is Claudius good or evil? Is her father protecting or imprisoning her? And can she trust her little sister Charity? Her decisions are difficult to make and her path full of twists and turns.
Little by little we discover the Vergas’ strange world and how their life remains the same as the days goes by, frozen in complete darkness and winter. Then, we learn about their past and the terrible events that took place years ago and changed their destinies forever. Travelling through time, Mercy is doing what she thinks is the best for all of them but she only has little time as her father Trajan has got an ingenious stratagem to stop her.
The suspense is kept all the way through the story, as travel between Century’s old golden days and the frozen and desolate place it has become. The story begins rather slowly, which reinforces the boredom of Mercy and Charity’s daily life and the contrast between their past and present but then events follow one another rapidly.
The theme of family history is developed in an interesting way and Sarah Singleton examines the importance of writing, remembering and stories in everybody’s life. This book is extremely well written, the story well developed and balanced between fantasy elements and more real facts, the characters charming and the atmosphere pleasant. It is initially written for a young audience but adults who are interested in a little bit of fantasy should read it as well.

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