Rachel and Adam Newman are fourteen year-old twins, raised in New York City, but sent to England for the summer as their parents settle their divorce. In their mother’s home village, Triskellion, the twins stay with their grandmother, and find that the grandparent and village that should be welcoming and a great place to visit are anything but. From the time they step off the train to no greeting, it is clear they aren’t welcome there. Their grandmother has a distinct lack of enthusiasm for their visit, they have a run-in with some of the village teenagers (which leaves the twins the worse for wear), and everything is just…strange. “It’s a freaky village,” Adam says early on, “seriously freaky.”
There are a few gems in the otherwise hostile village, though. In the moor outside the small village is a huge chalk carving of a triskelion, for which the village is named, which dates to the village’s bronze-age founding. The chalk carving is described as looking like what I’ve always called a Celtic trinity knot, and is the (metaphorical) heart of both the village and the book. The village chapel holds the tomb and remains of a Crusader with mysterious carvings on his marker, as well as a golden blade that looks as though it is one-third of the great chalk carving in the moor. Then there is Gabriel, a boy about their age, who the villagers are distrustful of and uncomfortable around–though he’s one of the only people there to welcome the twins’ visit. The other friendly face in the village is Jacob Honeymaker, who lives on the edge of the village, tends his bees, and collects the ancient coins and artifacts he finds in the moor.
It is pretty clear from the get go, to both the reader and the twins, that something is going on in Triskellion. There are secrets upon secrets, and no one is telling them anything. Triskellion was a little slow for me at the start, allowing me to set is aside while I read other novels, but when I came back to it, I found that I’d stopped right about the point where it really picks up pace. As soon as I started again, I was hooked, and I finished in one final sitting. The mystery of the town’s strangeness is pushed to the fore when a television show, Treasure Hunters, comes to the village to investigate the great chalk carving. There’s nothing like flushing out secrets via publicity.
I liked the way some of the fantastical elements of the story were handled. It was more about the twins unraveling the many secrets of the village than about the paranormal–even if the paranormal aspect was key. Early in the story, we see that Rachel and Adam have a strong connection to one another, able to feel what the other is feeling, and at some point I realized that they were able to speak mind to mind. It sneaked up on me, and I half want to go back to find out if it started after stuff began happening in the village, or if they came to England with the ability. Either way, I thought it was handled well, not obtrusive, and not a crutch. The same can be said of all the paranormal elements. They were slipped in and they worked well.
As I was racing through the last half of the novel, I was practically biting my finger nails in anxiety. I kept thinking that surely such things didn’t happen in middle grades books…apparently I’m uneducated in the ways of thriller mysteries for younger readers. This encouraged me to check out more stories for this age range. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The closing scene feels a bit off, and it was only when I realized that this is part of a trilogy that it made sense; otherwise if felt a little stilted. While the major plot is resolved, there are still outstanding questions as the narrative closes, and I was very much “Hey! But what about this? Or this?” I hope that those two questions (which are spoilery, so I won’t share here) are answered in the sequels. I want to know what’s the what.
Triskellion is the first of a trilogy, written by Mark Billingham and Peter Cocks, under the pen name of Will Peterson. The second in the trilogy, Triskellion: The Burning is already out in hardcover and comes out in paperback next month. The third book of the trilogy, Triskellion: The Gathering, releases September 14 in hardcover.
Random note: the cover pictured here isn’t the cover of the edition I have. Apparently I found a special store-exclusive edition, and I cannot find an image anywhere online, and haven’t yet had the chance to scan it. I suspect the one above is the one you’ll see in stores, though.
Full disclosure on how I came to have this novel: I bought it at ye olde big box book retailer.