The Wordsmith, Patricia Forde
Ark is a place of tally sticks, rationed food and shared shoes, where art and music are banned, language is severely restricted and outcasts are thrown to the wolves. Letta’s job is to collect words and dole them out to people who need them. When she discovers that John Noa is planning to rob the people of language altogether and make them Wordless, she has to stop him. But she’s only a young girl and he’s the leader of the known world.
Letta is an apprentice, learning the trade of the Wordsmith; perhaps the most important role in all of Ark. Letta makes the word cards that people are allowed to use in their daily lives – anything not a ‘List’ word is forbidden. For words are considered to be the cause of the Melting; they are the root of all evil and therefore restrictions ensure there will be no more trouble. The rule of law is created by John Noa and Ark is policed for him by gavvers; ruthless men who will do anything they can to ensure the law is followed. Anyone found to be challenging the law, a Desecrator, is banished to the wild. Benjamin, the Master Wordsmith, has been Letta’s family since her parents were lost. He often reassures her that all will be well, even when unrest spreads across Ark and outside the walls in Tin Town. When Benjamin meets his death on a word-finding trip and a Desecrator named Marlo shows up in her shop with bullet wounds, Letta starts to question everything. The reality of Ark suddenly becomes more like a prison; Letta realises John Noa is not all he seems and that everyone is in danger. Now the Master Wordsmith, Letta must overcome her fears and challenge all that she thought she knew to uncover the truth.
The Wordsmith is a beautifully written tale illustrating the importance of language and creativity and the power they have to change lives. Suitable for ages 11+, it has a detailed narrative and clever plot, you are instantly drawn into the post-apocalyptic world of Ark. It takes a moment to get used to some of the conversation which takes place using only ‘List’ words, but this perfectly creates the atmosphere of what it must be like to live in a world without proper communication. The heroine Letta, for whom you feel great empathy, is full of imagination considering the time she lives in, and very brave. Saving Marlo leads her to find out what life should really be like and how creativity is part of being human – as well as discovering the Desecrators are not the monsters she thought. The monster, is in fact, John Noa, who has clearly become obsessed with controlling all those around him through taking away their words. It is a frightening thought and there are some unpleasant moments where you realise just how far he will go to ‘save’ society.
As Letta’s journey to discover the truth unfolds, we find out what happened in the Melting (global warming) and how this has destroyed the world as we know it –a potential future that is a little too ‘real’ for comfort. Letta meets many brilliantly described characters; each of whom has a different experience to share; each of whom lead her on to the inevitable confrontation with John Noa. As well as being a great adventure, with plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat, The Wordsmith captures many of the concerns we have in society today. Raising questions of science, faith, religion, old age, poverty and the power of freedom of expression , I thoroughly enjoyed this story and really hope there will be a follow-up!
Check out my interview with Patricia Forde; not to be missed!
Thank you to Little Island for sending me this book to read and review.