The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson

Battle of the Sun coverThe Battle of the Sun is Winterson’s second novel for younger readers, and although one of the characters from Tanglewreck shows up in the second half it is a completely stand-alone novel. I received this as a Christmas gift and read it before Tanglewreck — no temporal anomalies or cognitive dissonance occurred.

Unlike Tanglewreck, this tale takes place in the past, London 1601, and the hero is a boy named Jack Snap who lives with his mother and his beloved dog, Max. The Magnus, an alchemist who dreams of turning London to gold, is convinced that Jack is the prophesied Golden Boy, key to realizing his transmutative dreams. Jack soon finds himself a prisoner in the Dark House, where he is forced to work alongside several failed “Golden Boys” and under the watchful eyes of Mr. Wedge and Mistress Split who are each half of a once whole creature now split in two.

Jack is resourceful and determined to escape the Magnus and thwart his selfish plans. He is assisted by many: the other boys, Max, his mother, and a visitor from the future. To succeed he must rescue a drowned king and snatch the Cinnabar egg from a dragon disguised as a moat who likes to speak in riddles. Jack joins forces with historically real alchemist John Dee for the final battle against the Magnus and his allies. Battle of the Sun is highly entertaining with bizarre though believable characters and several truly frightening situations. I would not recommend it for kids under 10 but would recommend it for preteens and teens who enjoy adventure.

This review from writer Philip Ardagh in The Guardian provides more detailed plot and character description but (Spoiler Alert) reveals who visits from the future. A second review from Media Culture is much less glowing.


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