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The Eye of the North

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When Emmeline's scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world.

Unfortunately, Bauer isn't the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, and Emmeline along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. Can Emmeline face one of the greatest legends of all time and live to tell the tale?

256 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 22, 2017

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About the author

Sinéad O'Hart

7 books56 followers
Sinéad O'Hart was born on a long-ago Monday in one of the many corners of Ireland. She grew up - not very far up, to be honest - with one brother and two parents, in a small house full of books. She always wanted to be an author, but somehow managed to wander through a variety of careers (including butcher, bookseller, and university lecturer, among others) before finally getting around to what she should have been doing all along, which was writing.

Her first book, THE EYE OF THE NORTH, was published by Knopf BFYR (US/Canada) in 2017, and by Stripes Publishing (UK/Ireland) in 2018. Her second book, THE STAR-SPUN WEB, came out in 2019 (Stripes, UK/Ireland; Knopf BFYR, US/Canada). In 2021 she published THE RAVENS' CALL with Harper Collins Children's Books and a third novel with Stripes/Little Tiger Press, SKYBORN, a prequel to her first book, The Eye of the North. Her new novel, THE TIME TIDER, is forthcoming in 2023.

She lives with one husband and one energetic youngster in the midlands of Ireland, in a small house full of books.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 123 reviews
Profile Image for Gavin Hetherington.
673 reviews5,603 followers
February 3, 2020
Why hasn't this book sold a million copies please? I LOVED this.

We follow Emmeline (a very witty and driven protagonist who I rooted for instantly!) whose explorer parents suddenly go missing and she has to be uprooted from the life she knows. She's sent aboard a ship to Paris, only she finds herself the target of the villainous Dr. Bauer, and her journey becomes complicated and way more dangerous. He wants to awaken the mythical Kraken, and he needs Emmeline to do it.

With fantastic characters, this became a new favourite rather quickly! I couldn't stop reading (I did finish this in less than a day), especially since we are thrust into the story from the very first chapter. Emmeline is presented as a capable character who is able to fend for herself - and a good job too considering the danger she is now put in. One of the highlights of this book are the two main characters, which brings me to the young boy called Thing. He was awesome! Thing is a three-dimensional companion who you can't help but fall in love with. With some backstory that is sprinkled throughout until a heart-wrenching moment later on in the story, Thing suddenly becomes the one we root for, and want to care for ourselves. He's just, ugh, so amazing. We should all have a friend like Thing.

The story and plot was kept moving too, and with the stakes being as high as they were, it made it all the more exciting. I was surprised by some things that happened considering this is a middle grade, but because this book was so well-written, it could have come across as a bit older. In other words, I think people of all ages could enjoy this one. This is a book that is equally character AND plot-driven. What a wonderful thrill ride!

Genuinely an adventure I would love to return to time and time again. I just wish I'd listened to people sooner and read it long before now - I've been missing out on an absolute gem of a book!
Profile Image for Jade Ratley.
192 reviews2,913 followers
March 3, 2018
So nearly 5 stars, so so nearly.
This was utterly fantastic, I loved this a whole heck of a lot.
Profile Image for Carina Olsen.
785 reviews145 followers
March 10, 2017
I really wish I could say that I loved this book. Sigh. Because it sounds just like a book that I could love. And that cover is truly gorgeous. And I love middle grade and fantasy so much. Sadly, this one was a bit disappointing. I felt like maybe I could have loved it, had it been written a bit differently. It just wasn't for me.

I mean, there were parts of this book I liked a lot. But there were more parts that I didn't really like at all. I didn't hate any of it, but I mostly found this to be boring. I did not care for the characters like I was supposed to. I didn't think it was written well enough. I liked the creatures, but they weren't such a big part of this book.

This tells the story about Emmeline and Thing. They are both around twelve years old, I think. While I enjoyed reading about Emmeline, I didn't really care for her at all. She seemed rude at times and I just didn't feel like I got to know her at all. Which was disappointing. I felt like she could have been a great character. Sigh. I did, however, like Thing a lot. Well, except for his name. But I liked even less when he starts using a different name near the end of the book. Ugh. Found that to be just silly. But yeah, Thing was an interesting character. He had a tragic past, which I was curious about, though the reveal wasn't good at all. Ugh. Thing has something wrong with his lungs, which I was even more curious about, yet I never got to learn the reason for. Sigh.

This book starts with Emmeline finding out that her parents have been kidnapped, and are most likely dead. She's then told she has to leave right away to some woman in Paris, and stay there until she is eighteen. Uhm. And she just leaves, right away too. Felt a bit weird to me. Oh, well. She's going on a big ship, and there she meets a boy, Thing. I guess they were supposed to become best friends, or whatever, but I didn't feel that way at all, sadly. They don't talk much in the day they get to know each other. Sigh.

And then Emmeline gets kidnapped herself. And so she and Thing spend most of the book away from each other. Which I didn't like at all. I thought I would get to read about a lovely friendship in this book. But that wasn't the case, sadly. They knew each other for about a day. And they didn't seem all that close, to be honest. But they both didn't have any friends before, so I guess they got close because of that. I don't know. But because of this, Thing wants to rescue her when she gets taken, and he tries his best.

I'm not sure what to say about this book. I wanted an epic friendship. Instead they are apart almost all the time. They both spend time with adults. And so this book wasn't nearly as fun as it could have been, aw. I wanted to so much more. There were the adults, which I sadly found to be written really badly. Emotional about things that didn't make much sense at all. I could have cared for them all, I think, if only they had been a bit more realistic. Sadly, I didn't really care for any of the characters in this book. So disappointing.

While these two kids aren't together in the book, they both have two adventures. I suppose I was curious about what would happen with them both, but I didn't really care much. A lot of things seemed a bit over the top, a bit too much. Sigh. This book is about the person who kidnapped Emmeline wanting to wake an ancient creature. And control the world. Which could have been exciting, except it wasn't. Didn't even get to know the villain at all. Why did he even want to live forever and wake up this creature? I have no idea.

Overall, I am glad that I gave this book a try. I did enjoy some parts of it. I didn't like the ending, sadly. But I liked some of the creatures, like the horses. So yay. But mostly this book was disappointing. Aw. Giving it two stars. Wishing I could have loved it more. Oh, well. I do think others should try it, though. Hope that many kids might enjoy it a lot. Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me this ARC to review while I was in Chicago. While I didn't love it, I'm glad that I tried it. It is gorgeous. If you do read it, let me know.


This review was first posted on my blog, Carina's Books, here: http://carinabooks.blogspot.no/2017/0...
Profile Image for Kieran Fanning.
Author 6 books31 followers
November 30, 2016
This review first appeared on the Middle Grade Strikes Back website.

When Emmeline’s parents (zoologists who specialise in unusual creatures) are kidnapped, she is put on a ship, bound for a safe-house in Paris. On board, she meets a boy called Thing (a scruffy stowaway orphan); and an unlikely friendship forms between them. But the criminals who kidnapped Emmeline’s parents soon catch up with her and whisk her off to the frozen north to be used as bargaining chip by the deranged Dr. Bauer who wants Emmeline’s parents to awaken a mysterious creature, asleep beneath the ice.

Determined to save his friend, Thing seeks help from a secret organisation called the The Order of the White Flower. Together, they set off on Emmeline’s trail, but when they are attacked, Thing must continue the journey alone.

What follows is a white-knuckled race towards a glacier in Greenland, with the perspective constantly shifting between Emmeline and Thing. Along the way, they meet many weird and wonderful characters, including magical creatures, some friendly and some not. The plot is perfectly paced, building in momentum with every turn of the page until the reader is hurtled into an edge-of-the-seat climax.

The absence of modern paraphernalia gives O’ Hart’s steampunk world a classic and timeless feel. The scope of her imagination and inventiveness is breath-taking, as indeed is the writing. I loved the character of Emmeline – a bookish, brave but nervous, particular (with a touch of OCD!) girl; or in the words of Dr. Bauer – ‘a singular little creature.’ The more rough-around-the-edges Thing is an ideal foil to her – he’s spontaneous, upbeat and funny, with a dark backstory.

This book is pure middle-grade gold, pitched perfectly in tone at its audience. It is sure to be lapped up by boys and girls alike. This impressive debut is my first 5 star read of 2017. I hope it’s a huge hit. It certainly deserves to be!

Now, in the words of Thing himself: ‘Let the adventurin’ begin’.

Profile Image for Helen.
790 reviews9 followers
June 3, 2021
Amazing book.
None stop action.
Looking forward to starting the next one.
February 28, 2022
Wow! I LOVED THIS! When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer, who is bound for the ice fields of Greenland. There he hopes to summon a mystical creature from the depths of the ancient glaciers, a creature said to be so powerful that whoever controls it can control the world. Unfortunately, Bauer isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The North Witch has laid claim to the mythical beast, too, & Emmeline—along with a scrappy stowaway named Thing—may be the only one with the power to save the world as we know it. This has the perfect mix of steampunk, fantasy, adventure, & friendship I love with the darker MG I love as well. This is nonstop action & adventure, full of so much danger & suspense. Kept me on the edge of my seat. The BEST characters as well. The chapters alternate POV mainly between Emmeline & Thing, but occasionally from other amazing key side characters as well. LOVED that. You get to see what is going on at all times that way, from every side/experience. You miss nothing. So many fascinating/intriguing things like the Northwitch, the sea monster, OSCAR, AEsirsmounts, Kobold, & so much more. Emmeline with her satchel of the most amazing & weird assortment of things lol..Loved her. 2 characters share my heart in here though. First is Thing. What a phenomenal character, & INCREDIBLE friend he was! Wowza. I wanted to hug him so bad, & then find his dad & knock some sense into him lol. Then Meadowmane. Ohhhh my heart! Loved so much. I’m actually also quite fond of Igimaq-amazing character. There’s a sad event implied towards the end. Since it’s IMPLIED, but not witnessed, I choose to believe it didn’t happen that way.🙂lol Other than that-phenomenal ending. So good! This has nonstop twists, adventure, mystery, danger, suspense, & characters you root for the whole way & love with your whole heart. It also has a few villains to loathe with your whole heart. Amazing writing. Such a gripping page turner. Highly recommend! BEAUTIFUL cover by Sara Mulvanny too!💜
Profile Image for Nigel.
Author 13 books58 followers
January 9, 2017
I dislike reading books on computer, or, indeed phone, once the PDF has been converted to whatever it is that phones let you read, but the advanced digital copy of this book overcame that prejudice and had me scrolling bleary-eyed through screen after screen in breathless pursuit of Emmeline and Thing as they embarked on their perilous journeys. A fun and riotous mix of steampunk mad science and mythological fantasy set in the far frozen north, I was instantly reminded of the writings of Joan Aiken and Philip Pullman, but O'Hart stamps her own style on this old-school tale of high adventure.

Emmeline grows up in an unusual household. Her scientist parents have a rather detached, hands-off approach to child-rearing, leaving their young daughter to learn by herself the skills and instincts necessary to survive the various extremely dangerous living specimens lurking around the house and its environs. These skills stand her in good stead when her parents vanish and she is dispatched to Paris across the rising seas. Despite her tendency to assume everyone she meets is trying to kill her, she befriends a stowaway who calls himself Thing and helps her elude a gang of thugs intent on kidnapping her. Ultimately, the thugs succeed, and Emmeline is carried away on a north-bound ship, but Thing and others are in pursuit, and the mad scientist with an eye on immortality is underestimating his captive.

This just rushes along from twist to turn, from wonder to cliffhanger, with a thoroughly engaging pair of protagonists to cheer on and a truly horrible set of villains to boo and hiss at. Lovely writing and a fertile imagination in a unique setting make this a truly enjoyable read.
Profile Image for The Librarian Witch.
73 reviews65 followers
September 17, 2018
This was a really great middle-grade read.

The characters were relatable and likeable, and the story was fast paced and exciting.
We jumped from action to action constantly throughout the book, never once getting the chance to get bored with the story.
The tale is told through different points of view, as our main characters spend a lot of the book in different locations, struggling with their own separate problems and dangers. This gave the story a good pace and forced me to say “just one more page” far often than was good for my bedtime, due to the enticing cliffhangers we were always left with.

I especially loved all the mythology and folklore that was mixed into the story, and am excited for more in the next instalment (unicorns? Dragons?!).
I would have liked to spend more time getting to know some of the magical creatures in this book, and hope we get a bit more information and detail next time.

Overall, this is a lovely little adventure filled with humour, friendship, perils, excitement, magic, and lots and lots of snow.

Definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Liam.
266 reviews8 followers
June 11, 2019
It is fantastic! Such an exciting, terrifying adventure with lovely touches of humour and magic. Emmeline Widget is simply wonderful, from the top of her curls to her duck bloomers.

It's great to read children's stories with elements of Lovecraftian horror in them, and this was really well done in Eye, with the ever present threat of an ancient evil under the ice. I love the mix of fantasy and steampunk.
Profile Image for Karina.
636 reviews44 followers
January 26, 2018
When Emmeline becomes an orphan, she is packed off on a ship to Paris for 'safety'. But fate has other plans for her than being safe, and she must battle impossible odds (with the help of her friends) in order to save herself - and possibly the world itself...

A roller-coaster ride of adventure, danger, zeppelins, kraken, mad scientists, kidnap attempts and impending ecological disaster.
Profile Image for Diamond.
94 reviews8 followers
August 7, 2020
I loved the writing and the characters but I couldn't bring myself to care that much for the story. I'm surprised with the writing, it was very approachable, yet not plain at all! Beautifully written.

Pretty good middle grade, considering that I don't read much of it. I would highly recommend for people that love MG and for kids!!
Profile Image for Dreximgirl.
1,051 reviews23 followers
March 18, 2018
This was a fun, quick and easy read. I loved the characters (especially Thing) and the plot was engaging and kept me reading. There were elements of steampunk and fantasy which worked really well and I'm really looking forward to more from this author.
Profile Image for Lghiggins.
772 reviews9 followers
October 29, 2017
The Eye of the North is a fantasy adventure tale intended for children in grades three through seven. The interest level would be appropriate for that range and maybe a little higher, but the reading level is too high for most third graders as it contains some fairly advanced vocabulary. It would make a good read aloud with a parent. The chapters are short. Within each chapter, when the two main characters are apart, the story jumps from one character to the other in a well-defined fashion which keeps the plot moving and the reader involved in the action of both characters.

The main character is Emmeline Widget whose parents are immersed in secret scientific research which endangers both them and their daughter. The storyline follows Emmeline’s adventures through apparent abandonment, solo sea travel, kidnapping, attacks and rescues by extraordinary creatures, and near death experiences. Along the way she meets Thing, a most unusual and self-sufficient boy. She saves his life and he repays her by following her north to lands of snow and ice to rescue her.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Knopf Books for Young Readers) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lillian.
937 reviews63 followers
August 21, 2017
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Eye of the North
by Sinéad O'Hart is an exciting adventure about a girl as she looks for her parents. I’ve never been much of a middle-grade reader. Even when I was a middle-grader, I didn’t read these books. I don’t know why, but they never interested. However, The Eye of the North caught my attention immediately.

Emmeline is an interesting character. She’s a young girl who isn’t close to her parents, but loves them nonetheless. Their work keeps her in constant fear for her life. She’s been raised not to trust others and so she doesn’t, not even them. When they are kidnapped and presumed killed, she is sent away to France, but on the boat trip someone is trying to take her as well. I liked Emmeline. She’s resourceful, and for a girl who trusts no one she attracts many friends.

Thing (yes, that’s his name) is my favorite character and quickly grows on Emmeline as well. He is around her age, possibly older. He isn’t sure as he is an orphan/runaway, living off the streets and currently stowing away on the same boat as Emmeline. Thing sees her as a distraction and a way to pass the time on the boat, but when her life is in danger he quickly becomes her rescuer and partner in crime. He’s brave, rash, and a quick thinker, but also fiercely loyal which made me love him.

The plot of the story revolves around Emmeline’s parents’ secret work. What is it they really do and why have they been kidnapped? The more Em discovers, the more she realizes how little she really knew her parents. I enjoyed the twists and turns as Em discovers more and more. Then about a third of the way into the story her and Thing are separated and the story is told from both their perspectives, basically like two stories running parallel to each other. It made for an exciting read and some dramatic irony as the reader finds out things before the characters.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! While I liked Emmeline, I loved Thing. They make a great a team! But perhaps the reason I enjoyed this so much was the writing style. The author’s writing reminds me a lot of C.S Lewis’s writing in The Chronicles of Narnia. It was like the narrator who is outside of the story is talking to you about what the characters are experiencing, a little formal but intriguing. If you enjoy middle grade fantasy with a dash of steampunk, I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Kayleigh Cyphus.
143 reviews14 followers
December 17, 2017
From the very first line of this wonderful book I was hooked; Sinéad O'Hart has created some brilliant characters with a storyline that keeps you turning page after page! The Eye of the North is definitely set to be one of the top middle grade releases of 2018!

In this steampunk adventure, we start by meeting Emmeline, our feisty heroine as she learns that her parents have mysteriously disappeared. Suddenly, her life is turned upside down and we find ourselves aboard a ship, sailing off towards further mystery and adventure!

The Eye of the North is perfect for fans of Cogheart, A Place Called Perfect and The Sinclair's Mysteries (to name a few!) and thoroughly deserves to be at the top of people's reading lists for 2018!
Profile Image for Mel Lenore.
575 reviews342 followers
February 4, 2021
6.43 on CAWPILE

This was a fun middle grade. Not the best I've read, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I loved Thing, and I think I would have liked it more if he and Em had been together for more of the story. Normally split perspective works well for me, but I think it took away some of the magic and ability to delve deeper. I know its MG and not intended to have vast character development or huge worldbuilding, but this book was pure adventure story and I never really got to know the characters at all. Because of this, I wasn't invested when the big stuff started to happen.
3,224 reviews27 followers
September 29, 2018
Not exactly what I was expecting and a bit disappointed. The book just didn't work for me. But that doesn't mean middle grade kids, 5th and up, wouldn't enjoy it! I tried to get into the story, but I'm not its demographic. Sorry.

I received a Kindle ARC in exchange fro a fair review from Netgalley.
78 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2018
What a Kracken adventure! Thoroughly enjoyable with a scintillating climactic ending. Recommended.
Profile Image for Erin Wilson.
303 reviews2 followers
November 2, 2020
Such a fun, action-packed middle grade.
Would definitely recommend for fans of Philip Pullmans' Dark Materials trilogy.
Great friendships and memorable characters
Profile Image for Caitlyn.
198 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2020
This book was a story of two halves for me. The first half I loved and thought this book would end up being at least a 4 star read. Then things took an unexpected turn and suddenly, there were way too many characters, the plots and backstories felt rushed and the ending was safe rather than the emotional punch I'd been hoping for.

Let's start with the good. The opening line is brilliant, 'For as long as she could remember, Emmeline Widget had been sure her parents were trying to kill her.' Right away, I was intrigued and the mysteries just kept on coming. From the descriptions of the bizarre house/zoo that Emmeline grew up in, to the mysterious letter (apparently from her mother) telling Emmeline to leave everything she has ever known and board a ship to France to live with someone she has never heard of before. On this ship, Emmeline meets a stowaway called Thing and together they must avoid the dangerous, gun-wielding assailants that are chasing them all over the ship and find out what has really happened to Emmeline's parents. The chase scenes were action-packed and I felt genuine fear for the characters from one page to the next as they tiptoed, hid and schemed to avoid their enemies. Over everything was a haze of confusion that neither you, the reader, or the main characters fully understood what was happening and it was thrilling!

Then, just over halfway, the story took an extreme (for me) magical realism shift. The story is about the search for a mythical monster. Fine, I can deal with 1 mythical monster, but adding in to a story that already has a historical feel, a steampunk/dystopian setting, a climate change message, a and mystery elements stretched my suspension of disbelief beyond what was enjoyable.

There were also way too many characters introduced in the second half of the book, which meant that there wasn't time to develop them fully and time was taken away from getting a proper look into the backstory of the characters we already knew.

Finally, the stakes started out so high, I was expecting a really good pay off which just didn't happen.
Profile Image for Seawood.
1,044 reviews
January 13, 2018
I received this free as a UK pre-publication review copy through NetGalley as an ebook, and read it in tandem with a librarian colleague in Canada reading the US version. This has not influenced my review.

What a ride! This is top end middle-grade, so I'll be recommending it to my confident readers from Y5 and then Y6/7 classes (children from 10-12+). It's exhilarating. We start out with a creeping, Snickett-esque atmosphere where you just *know* something awful is about to happen to Emmeline. Then it all lurches towards the Lovecraftian when Emmeline's parents go missing - a whirlwind of travel, plots, a sweet cheeky boy called Thing, layer upon layer of secret societies, weird adults, mad scientists, revenge, greed, ancient myth, the end of the world and AIRSHIPS! It's not quite steampunk but definitely that sort of atmosphere - planes and telephones are not in evidence, which means the suspense can be drawn out really well. It's a world where climate change is clearly in effect - I would like to have seen more of the backplot of that and I'm hoping O'Hart sets some more stories in this universe to explore the effect of those rising seas in more detail.

The two main characters are fantastic. I love the fact that Emmeline isn't a perfect, brilliant heroine who's good at everything. She's gained her survival skills through a challenging childhood and being a rather fearful overthinker (hello, myself) - her disaster planning, situational awareness and sheer practicality is what saves the day over and over again. Thing is adorable - a sweet, funny boy with a loyal heart as big as Greenland itself. Watch carefully for the resolution of his backstory and disability - it's very subtle and hurried readers will miss it in the final scenes. Take your time over the final chapters and really savour them. My only small criticism is that I would have liked to have seen the villains fleshed out a bit more, but this is very common with debut novels and it doesn't spoil the story at all. I just want to know ALL the details!

If you liked A Place Called Perfect, Mold and the Poison Plot, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Cogheart and/or you're a fan of Norse mythology, this will go down very well. Absolutely one to put on your TBR pile as soon as it comes out.
Profile Image for Michelle Kidwell.
Author 39 books75 followers
August 11, 2017

The Eye of the North

by Sinead O'Hart

Random House Children's

Knopf Books for Young Readers
Children's Fiction

Pub Date 22 Aug 2017 |

Emmeline finds herself headed to the north where allies have pledge to protect her after her scientist parents mysteriously dissapear. Doctor Siegfried Bauer is bound for the ice fields of Greenland where he hopes to summon the Mystical Creature said to be found in the depths of the ancient glaciers. A creature believed to be so powerful whoever controls it can control the world.

The North Witch has also laid claim to the beast and Emmeline and a scrappy stowaway named the Thing must stop them in order to save the world? Will they be able to?

Find out in The Eye of The North.

The perfect read for YA readers who love adventure!

Five out of five stars.

Happy Reading!
Profile Image for Elise.
84 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2018
I was excited about this book. I liked the tone and the kind of character Emmeline was being built up to be. But the set-up was over very quickly and with non-stop running away from baddies and imminent danger, no time was really given to getting to know the characters. The relationship between characters seemed to happen instantly, which didn't quite feel believable to me.

I'm pretty sure the timeline of the story is just a week during which a LOT happens. Despite the fast pace I found myself feeling a bit bored. It's hard to pinpoint why. It may have been the endless running and being chased with no time to develop the characters and get to know them or the very short back and forth of point of views. Somehow this book felt like it should have been the second in a series, where the characters and the world has already been set up, meaning that you can launch into an adventure quite quickly. With the set-up not being effective enough, I just ended up not really caring and forcing myself to finish... Shame, the blurb had a lot of promise.
1 review
September 10, 2017
A wonderfully paced story that balances both the emotional and the tension perfectly. It's one of those books you read in one sitting, it really is a fantastic read and an amazing debut from this author. Really can't wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Ekta.
Author 14 books30 followers
November 1, 2017
After her parents disappear, a young girl gets kidnapped too. As she tries to figure out who would want to kidnap her family and why, she will also have to try to make sense of other events that have greater implications for the world at large. Author Sinead O’Hart tackles climate change and mythical creatures all with a plucky protagonist in her mostly likable debut novel The Eye of the North.

Emmeline Widget can take care of herself. Her parents, scientists, spend most of their time on expeditions away from home, so much so that Emmeline carries around a satchel at all times full of survival essentials. She’s also read countless books on techniques and tools to help her out of almost any problem.

Her informal training may truly benefit her, Emmeline discovers, when she receives a mysterious letter from her mother. The letter states that if Emmeline is reading the words on the page, in all likelihood her parents have been kidnapped. For her own safety, the letter continues, Emmeline should leave her home immediately and travel to Paris. There she should go to the address included in the letter, ask for a Madame Blancheflour, and live with the woman until the age of 18.

Satchel in hand, Emmeline boards a ship bound for France. There she meets a stowaway who calls himself Thing because, he explains, that’s how everyone has always addressed him. Within hours of getting on the ship, Emmeline finds out that someone—or several someones—want to kidnap her as well. She and Thing do their best to evade capture, but the inevitable happens: Emmeline gets snatched from the deck by a Dr. Siegfried Bauer.

With the world’s topography changing dramatically, Dr. Bauer wants immortality. After decades of research, he has discovered he can call forth the Kraken in Greenland. Anyone who summons the Kraken and offers a living sacrifice can command the beast and utilize its powers, including those that make it live forever. Dr. Bauer set Emmeline’s parents with the actual task of drawing the Kraken out of its glacial home; Emmeline will serve as the sacrifice.

All is not lost, however. Thing begins working on a plan to save Emmeline. He meets a bevy of friends along the way who help him in his quest, and he lives through some adventures himself. As both Emmeline and Thing travel to Greenland, they will have to contend with what awakening the Kraken means not only for them personally but also for the rest of the world.

Author Sinead O’Hart’s debut novel zips along at a fast clip once Emmeline gets kidnapped by Dr. Bauer. Much of the action before her kidnapping feels like filler, however. The book begins just as Emmeline receives her mother’s letter. As soon as she’s done reading, the butler informs Emmeline she has five minutes to grab anything extra (he’s already packed her bags, of course,) before they must drive to the dock. The jarring start to the book requires a great deal of suspension of belief, and the lack of plausibility might discourage more advanced readers.

The introduction of Thing, too, doesn’t exactly make one warm up to him right away. Eventually, however, readers will grow to like him as much as Emmeline does, and O’Hart does an admirable job of keeping his back story just out of reach until it’s absolutely needed. Until that moment late in the book, though, readers will have to content themselves with accepting the fact that Thing is a resourceful orphan who is just nosy enough to follow Emmeline and then rescue her.

On a larger scale, O’Hart’s book feels like it’s reaching for too many things all at once. Roundabout mentions in passing of massive climate change may provoke curiosity and questions, but they don’t receive much attention. O’Hart ropes in fabled creatures, a la the Kraken (and others that get a rushed mention at the end,) but their inclusion feels more like a bid to appeal to the younger end of the target audience. A witch pops up briefly, almost as if items on a checklist needed ticking. In many other places, the mechanics of the action are entirely unclear and some of the characters come across as placeholders.

For readers who don’t mind putting aside a little bit of logic and who can enjoy an adventure for adventure’s sake, The Eye of the North might be worth a read. I recommend readers Borrow The Eye of the North.
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