Flood and Fire is the sequel to Raider's Ransom, which I reviewed here. Both are set in a post-apocalyptic UK now consisting of Greater Scotland and the much smaller Last Ten Counties of England. After a rise in sea-level, London and the surrounding series of marshes is the territory of the Raiders, gangs of pirates organized as Families. Raider's Ransom and Flood and Fire are both told via the alternating first-person viewpoints of Lilly, a runaway from The Last Ten Counties, and Zeph, the son of a Raider family Boss (now dead).
As Flood and Fire begins, Lilly and her protege, Lexy (the once-kidnapped daughter of the Prime Minister) are in the marshes, trying to escape from Raider patrols to get back to England. They are accompanied by PSAI, the only known functioning computer in the world, and Cat, a valuable Sea Cat. Meanwhile, Zeph is in battle with his half-brother, Roba, over leadership of their Family, even as their clan is under siege from other Raiders.
It quickly becomes apparent that the only way that Zeph can save his Family (which is like a village, about 300 people strong) is by betraying Lilly and seizing control of PSAI. This is complicated enough, but things become even more tricky for Lilly and Zeph when it turns out that there is another computer in existence, and this computer wants to take over everything.
Flood and Fire is another fast-paced adventure, filled with chases and battles, and sprinkled with tantalizing glimpses into the world before The Collapse. Diamand's world-building is excellent. Some of the details will likely escape US readers. (For example, there's a remnant of road called the "Emaleven". Readers who haven't been to the UK may not know that the M11 is a major roadway.) However, the overall picture of a technophobic England, regressed to basic survival (and old-style gender roles), in contrast with a somewhat more advanced Scotland, is clear and interesting.
The Raider's Ransom books are a good introduction to post-apocalyptic fare for middle grade graders. There is, however, a fair degree of violence in Flood and Fire, with fighting and blood and some gratuitous killing. They are not for the timid. Kids who are ok with the later Harry Potter books, or Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles, should be fine.
What I like most about Flood and Fire is the way that Diamand creates genuine moral conflicts for the characters, particularly Zeph. What would you do if you had choose between the lives of your 300 dependents (including babies) and the lives of your two friends? Although there is plenty of world-building going on here, and several plot twists, the relationships between the characters are what ultimately drive the story.
I also like the dialect that Diamand uses for Zeph and Lilly. They have unique grammar and vocabularies, quite distinct from who people talk today, but not so different that kids won't be able to understand it. Here's Zeph:
"Problem on problem, and every one needing my deciding. I never really got this was what my father did, coz all I saw was what I wanted. Feasts and warriors giving way to him." (Page 44)
And here's Lilly:
"Me and Lexy walk down a golden street, her hand in mine, tight-holding. Our heads are turning this way and that, trying to look at everything at once, and we've both got silly smiles on our faces... I can't hardly believe this place is in the same world as me." (Page 49)
When I read Raider's Ransom, I occasionally had trouble telling whether a chapter was being narrated by Zeph or Lilly (both first-person narrators). Flood and Fire still doesn't indicate this in the chapter headings. But for whatever reason, maybe a better job of projecting each character's voice, I always knew who was talking in this second book.
Zeph, Lilly, Lexy, and PSAI are all strong characters (yes, the computer is a character in his own right). I also rather enjoyed a new character in this book, a Professor of Silicon Antiquities from Trinity College. The conclusion of Flood and Fire is creative, without being overly facile (in terms of wrapping things up neatly). Although the immediate conflicts are resolved, I do hope that Diamand pens a third installment about Lilly and Zeph. Because I, for one, would be happy to visit the world of Greater Scotland and the Last Ten Counties again.
Flood and Fire is recommended for middle grade readers, boys and girls, and anyone else who enjoys post-apocalyptic fiction and/or books about pirates. But do read Raider's Ransom first!
Publisher: The Chicken House (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).