Many of you know about my love of books and Hen Harriers, so I was overjoyed when Gill Lewis sent me her proof copy of ‘Skydancer’, a beautiful work of fiction for readers 9-99+! This book eloquently portrays the story of grouse moor management and the plight of the Hen Harriers’ persecution; Lewis combines these disturbing issues with a wonderful evocation of the wild and of human nature. It is a very well researched book and I can really see that Lewis has looked at lots of different perspectives and evidence.
I don’t want to give the story away, so I’ll just touch on some broader themes.This story follows Joe, the son of a gamekeeper and his two friends Araminta and Ella (I really related to this particular character as she is driven by curiosity, knowledge and scientific evidence) on their quest for justice. They all come from different backgrounds, with different slants on the same fight – the fight to stop the persecution of wildlife on a Yorkshire grouse moor. The characters give the book a great dynamic and the plot an exciting pace (although some passages were a little too overwhelming for me, as someone who gets very emotional about animal cruelty and wildlife crime). I love that this book has young conservationists at its heart, there are not many books which have characters or story lines like this today. Although, I loved Julia Green’s ‘The Wilderness War’, which also has young conservationists as great characters! I felt a deep connection with their cause and their willingness to raise their heads above the parapet. There are not enough young people shouting out against the death of our countryside, the decrease in wildlife and the apathy of the majority of the population. This makes me angry and frustrated, so it was wonderful to read a book which raises awareness of important issues in such a lyrical way. Lewis also conjures up the wildness of the moor and gives younger readers a real sense of the wonder of Hen Harriers – a bird they may never have heard of!
One line in the book stirred me, ‘you can’t run a grouse moor with Hen Harriers’, and judging by the amount of shot, trapped and poisoned wildlife – including the protected Hen Harrier – I can’t help but be convinced that this is actually true. It is clear that Hen Harriers clash with the money making management of grouse moors, in fiction and reality. There are two factions in this book, those who want to drive every penny from the land but in the process destroying and killing its very soul, and those who love the land and every species which its eco system depends upon. It is fiction but there are definitely elements of comparison to be made in the real world.
Lewis has given me a hope with her book. As a young conservationist, it has given me a glimmer of ambition, to keep fighting, to keep shouting, to keep standing up for what I believe in. I wish though that our world was more like Lewis’ in that proper justice is served to those who commit wildlife crime. I wonder if, by the time I’m a grown up, this too will be a reality.
Thanks to Gill for sending me this important book, and for showing kindness and giving a young conservationist a like me, the drive to keep trying to make a difference. I’m now looking forward to reading lots of her other books too! I hope lots of people read it and become aware of the perilous future of our precious and magnificent Hen Harriers. I know lots of people in our ‘community’ will do all we can to make sure it is.
‘Skydancer’ by Gill Lewis is due for release on the 5th October by Oxford University Press. Please follow Gill on Twitter and check out her other works on www.gilllewis.com
Thanks for reading