YA is one of the brightest stars of the publishing world. From relative obscurity a few years ago, it has literally exploded. Today YA fiction has its own section in libraries and book-shops, its titles regularly appear on the New York Times bestseller list and it has inspired legions of teens – and adults – to start reading again. And yet, in spite of this, there are still people out there who sneer at and mock YA fiction. There is still a very ugly attitude revolving around these sorts of books, the notion that because they are not considered ‘serious literature’ they are worthless.
Happy World Poetry Day, one and all! This year I’m posting in memory of my grandfather Harry King, and sharing one of his classic monologues by Marriott Edgar, and certainly a family favourite!
I’ll tell of the Battle of ‘Astings
As happened in days long gone by,
When Duke William became King of England
And Harold got shot in the eye.
‘Twere this way: One day in October
The Duke, who were always a toff,
And having no battles on at the moment
Had given his lads the day off.
They’d all took some boats to go fishin’
When some chap in the Conqueror’s ear,
Said: “Let’s go and put breeze up the Saxons.”
Says Bill: “By ‘eck, that’s an idea!”
Then turning around to his soldiers,
He lifted his great Norman voice
And said: “Hands up who’s coming to England.”
That was swank ‘cos they hadn’t much choice.
So they all set sail about teatime,
And the sea were so calm and so still
And at quarter to ten the next morning
They arrived at a place called Bexhill.
When Harold had seen that they’d landed,
He came up with venom and hate,
Saying :”If tha’s come for the regatta
Tha’s come here a fortnight too late.”
But William arose cool and haughty,
And said: “Give us none of your cheek.
And you’d best have your throne reupholstered,
I’ll be wanting to use it next week.”
When Harold heard this ‘ere defiance
With rage, he turned purple and blue,
And shouted so rude words in Saxon,
To which William answered: “And you!”
It were a beautiful day for a battle.
The Normans set off with a will.
And when they’d all duly assembled,
They tossed for the top of the hill.
King Harold, he won the advantage.
On the hilltop he took up his stand,
With his knaves and his lads all around him
On his horse, with his hawk in his hand.
Now the Normans had nowt in their favour.
Their chance for a victory were small
For the slope of the field were against them
And the wind in their faces, and all.
The kick-off was sharp at 2.30
And as soon as the whistle had went
Both sides started bashing each other
Till the swineherds could hear them in Kent.
The Saxons had best line of forwards,
Well armed with buckler and sword,
But the Normans had best combination
So when halftime came, neither had scored.
Then t’Duke called his cohorts together
And said: “Let’s pretend that we’re beat.
And when we get t’Saxons on level
We can cut off their means of retreat.”
So they ran and the Saxons ran after
Just exactly as William had planned
Leaving Harold alone on the hilltop
One his horse, with his hawk in his hand.
When William saw what had happened
His bow and his arrow he drew
He went straight up to Harold and shot him.
He were offside, but what could they do?
Then t’Normans turned round with a fury
And gave back both parry and thrust,
Till the battle were over, bar shouting
And you couldn’t see Saxons for dust.
And after the battle were over
There, sitting so stately and grand
Was Harold, with an eyeful of arrow
On his horse, with his hawk in his hand.
By George Marriott Edgar (1880 – 1951)
This one’s a good ‘un, you guys! I’ve had my eye on it for months, hearing nothing but good things, and it really blew me away. It’s the kind of YA book that makes me proud to be a YA reader, one that teaches a rough lesson or two, that takes difficult but real subject matters and says ‘fuck sugar-coating this bitch, I ain’t Mary Poppins; you’re a young adult audience and you need the truth on this matter, for your own damn good’. Just to add to the mix, we’ve got some well-crafted characters, a highly original and well-paced plot, and a couple of love stories that didn’t make a romance-loathing reader like myself want to gouge her eyes out. You’ve got yourself a pretty damn-near perfect YA novel, Sabaa Tahir.
I was lucky enough to interview Lori M. Lee, author of the Gates of Thread and Stone series, the first book of which was one of my favourite reads of last year. The second book The Infinite is coming out March 10th 2015, and I highly recommend it for fans of YA fantasy.
Masterfully written, incredibly enjoyable, and what could be V.E. Schwab’s magnum opus; A Darker Shade of Magic really did captivate me. I have read some of Schwab’s books before; her young adult series The Archived was imaginative but I found it didn’t grip me and her superhero novel Vicious was well-written with some brilliant characters, but again it just was not my jam. So coming into A Darker Shade of Magic, I did have my doubts, but boy were they eradicated swiftly.