Every now and again a young adult book comes along that jabs a syringe full of liquid nitrogen in your spine you know right between the cervical vertebrae. Sharon Gosling’s Fir did that for me.
Our hero, an unnamed teenage black metal fan, gets plucked from his comfortable life and mates in Stockholm to be relocated to a big house in the frozen north of Sweden when his parents (the Strombergs) decide that they want a new life running a logging operation. As if being dumped in the middle of nowhere isn’t bad enough, there’s no internet or mobile telephone signal either. Naturally that isn’t the worst of it, because people who aren’t supposed to there, start turning up in the house, at windows and in the primeval forests, and then there is Dorothea, the deranged scuttling housekeeper who quite obviously hates our hero and of course has some kind of terrible secret hidden away. But it gets worse, the family get snowed in, the phone lines go down, someone sabotages the logging vehicles and mum and dad start getting ever more withdrawn. Oh yes and then our hero discovers that all the previous plantation owners have suffered terrible injury and loss whenever they considered having a go at the trees in the ancient woodlands.
Gosling really captures the unique eeriness and isolation of Sweden’s frozen north, as the trees themselves seem to close in over the Stromberg family. Layering the action with menacing Scandinavian woodland folklore references nicely ramps up the sense of foreboding that something really awful is going to happen to the protagonist. Will it? Well you will have to read Fir to find out.
Insanity, mystery and chillingly creepy I give Fir a 555/666
Fir is published by our good friends at Red Eye price £7.99 UK
Trivia: Sharon Gosling has written the official TV tie-in titles for CBBC’s fun teen werewolf saga Wolf Blood