There are some books that are so well written they make you hold your breath. They crawl inside you and inhabit your senses – make you wonder how someone could have thought to put words together in such a hauntingly beautiful way.
Tantony by Ananda Braxton Smith is one such book. It’s unusual title comes from the Tantony pig – the runt of the litter – the swineheard’s favourite. It’s the perfect metaphor for Boson Quirk, a young boy who is found dead,
‘face down in a bog of stars’.
Tantony is told from the point of view of Boson’s twin, Fermion and as if losing her brother isn’t bad enough, their mother, Moo has retreated into a world where she no longer speaks.
Moo had let the fire burn out. In the corner where she sloped and faded, a spider had anchored its silk to one of her fingertips and was swinging wallward. There was to be no brew, no fuss or chat. I dropped my wet-sheep bag and muddy bundles right in the doorway where everybody was sure to fall over them. She didn’t even turn.
In spite of standing right up close, I couldn’t hear her breath. I laid my hand flat on her drooping neck and felt her blood still beating there. She was only pretending to be dead.
Something about Boson isn’t quite right but everyone pretends it’s nothing – until he dies and they are forced to acknowledge his differences. Boson’s affliction is never stated, but it’s there in the background, a shadow threaded through the story like the whisper of the wind.
In her quest to discover what really happened to her brother, Fermion discovers startling truths about the town in which she lives, and about herself. Voices in her head tell her that the truth about Boson can be found on “the Other Island, the one that everyone says is bristling with gods and monsters.”
Fermion goes there accompanied by her faithful dog, Mungo, but will they make it back?
This book has everything – tension, beautifully drawn characters, a compelling story and a lilting style that carries the reader along gently, even though the content is quite stark at times.
Tantony is in the Secrets of Carrick series. I have to admit I hadn’t read the first book, Merrow but I certainly intend to, now. Tantony is definitely a stand alone book that you can enjoy without having read the first book in the series.
Tantony is for young adult readers and is published by Black Dog Books.