Title: The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Published: 10th November 2007/1st September 2008
Synopsis: The final three paperbacks of the award-winning six-book series by Kate Forsyth.
Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live.
The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… and the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…
27th August 1685:
Sussex was the first county secured by the Roundheads because of its iron foundries. Here in the Weald, the Smith tribe are working for Parliament, making cannons and weaponry. They have prospered under Cromwell’s rule, and have no interest in old gypsy charms. And it is here where Luka and Emilia must find the fifth charm, a finely-wrought lightning bolt, and amidst the smoke and noise of the Horsmonden foundry, the gypsy children run into old friends… and old enemies.
Winner of Aurealis Awards’ Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007
In the fifth book of the Chain of Charms series, Emilia and Luka find themselves in Sussex, where they need to find the Smith family of travellers, and the one who holds the lightning bolt charm – the fifth in the magical chain of charms that Emilia believes will bring the Finch family luck and see them released from the prison that Coldham and the Roundheads have put them in – for singing and dancing in the marketplace. As they venture towards London, they are separated from those who helped them in the previous book, and reunite with Fairnette and her family, the Smiths who hold the lightning bolt. Not only must they get the charm, but earn the trust of Fairnette’s father, and face betrayal from the Hearnes, whom they thought they could trust in The Silver Horse. In the foundry at Horsmonden where the Smiths now work, they will face fire and smoke, and make that one step closer to London and saving their families.
The intensifying plot gets more interesting as the story goes on, and as Emilia and Luka encounter people who help them – from the Catholic Underground to kin who live a new life and somewhere in between – the rebels, the Dukes who wish to change things. The children are helped because these people can see the changes coming – and seeing two young children alone appears to be hard for some characters to comprehend – so Emilia and Luka appeal to their humanity, and Emilia’s ability to see the future has begun to be apparent and become a part of the storyline, where she can foresee what is to come and uses it to her advantage to get help. The pace at which these books have been moving is excellent and engaging – no need for meandering or slow moving scenes that complement her other books for adults – pure action and adventure for kids and kids at heart.
As always, Kate Forsyth’s characters are layered, and intricate, and through each book, as a reader, I discovered something new about these beloved characters, Emilia, Luka and Zizi, and those new characters they meet that ensure their journey can continue, in contrast to those trying to stop what they are doing. Mixed in is Coldham and his stubborn, singlemindedness that he has to catch Emilia and Luka at all costs, a constant threat that ensures the pace of the novel moves quickly and fervently as Emilia and Luka seek to save their family from hanging.
Of all the characters, Coldham is perhaps the most loathsome, because he is so pinpointedly focussed on getting rid of Emilia, Luka and all like them, that there is little room for much else to happen with him. He is the kind of character you do not want to encounter, and Kate Forsyth has written him as exquisitely as any of her other characters.
The weaving in of the history of rule under Cromwell, and the English Civil War, and the treatment of travellers like Emilia and Luka, and their kin makes the story powerful and grounded in a time and place where some things were different, but the treatment of those different to the ruling class has not really changed – the way some people are treated illustrates that there will always be degrees of hatred and discrimination – in a world where the understandings we have today were not present, Emilia and Luka fought hard, and I’m keen to see where the next book takes them.
In the penultimate instalment of the Chain of Charms series, Luka and Emilia start to have hope, that maybe they will finally be able to free their family from prison and live as they have for their entire lives and be who they are. It is a beautiful series that I am so close to finishing and hope to finish by the weekend.