Nathan Brookes is not exactly an amazing counselor at the Sutton Park. When a group of four students, “the Leftovers,” are given over to his care he is far too distracted by an uncomfortable incident with his workmate, Sue. He allows the four children in his group to start off on their hike alone while he desperately tries to smooth things over. The group that climbs up the hill consists of a nerdy boy named Bran, a young woman nick-named Scattie, a bully type named Ryan, and a tiny frail wisp of a girl named Liv. To Nathan’s horror, he catches up to the group, just to see them cross a footbridge that doesn’t exist on any map and disappear before his eyes. Liv is recovered the next day, dehydrated and starving as if she had been without food and water for several days. Several years later, Nathan begins to have visions of his missing hikers at his new setup hours away. When a body is discovered in a bog at Sutton Park, Sue covertly sends Nathan a link to the article. Thinking it may be one of his students, he returns to the scene of the disappearance from so many years ago. Dr. Tara Doumani is researching the remains of the “human body: found in the bog. Delighted, she thinks she may have discovered the latest bog mummy and therefore find research funding for the next few years. Unfortunately, things are not as they seem. The body is thousands of years old, but appears to be made up of several separate human bodies. She receives threats to “PUT HIM BACK” but ignores them as a prank. Only when she is held at knife point by a rather disheveled adult version of Liv, does she realize there is so much more to the story than she has initially thought. What follows is a novel that twists as turns like a British History roller coaster. If you pick up this book, don’t make any plans save to finish it.
It is a fair assumption that if life had not intervened, I would have finished reading James Brogden’s Hekla’s Children in a single sitting. As it was, I finished it under the covers with the light from my cellphone so not to disturb my household. The characters are intentionally flawed, but fascinating. The last time I read a book similar to this subject matter with this good of story, it was The Song of Albion Trilogy by Stephen R. Lawhead. Yeah Fantasy fans, author James Brogden is in those ranks and I’ll really need him to get started on the next book as soon as possible (PLEASE!). Hekla’s Children combines archaeology, anthropology, horror, early British settlements, New Age therapy, and intelligent characters who behave as we likely would in the given situation. It goes after every feeling we’ve ever had about letting down a child we’ve sworn to protect. It goes after every fear of not being good enough or being brave enough. Oh, and it has the most kickass trio of women you’ll meet anytime soon.
Hekla’s Children is now available from Titan Books. It should be purchased immediately, and not be left alone in your “To Be Read Later” pile.