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Halo was a surprise read for me. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it and was a bit concerned about the length of the book for its target audience at 356 pages long, but once I'd got into it all these concerns faded away.
Halo tells the tale of a Greek girl who is washed up on the shores of Zakynthos as a baby and is raised by Centaurs until one day she is captured by fisherman and taken away. The story then follows the typical pattern of journey/quest where Halo tries to return to her home but things keep getting in her way. She soon discovers that life for Greek girls is pretty horrible and for Greek girl slaves it is even worse. So when she escapes and washes up on yet another shore, this time the Greek mainland, she decides to disguise herself as a boy. Asa boy she fares slightly better, but eventually ends up as a slave in Sparta where she is used to help train the Spartan soldiers. Here we meet Halo's protector and love interest Leonidas.
Running alongside this is Halo's quest to find out who she really is and who her parents are. She has a strange tattoo on her forehead which no one can explain, and a golden owl necklace, which are her only clues. When she has the chance to speak to the oracle at Delphi she takes it and discovers that her city is Athens. Halo escapes the Spartan and sets off for Athens.
All this builds towards what anyone with a modicum of knowledge in Greek history will see coming a mile off - the war between Sparta and Athens. And Halo has her new Athenian friends on one side and Leonidas on the other. Oh no!!!
Well it's a children's book so I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying it all ends happily ever after, but there are a few twists and turns along the way that make it a very interesting read. It is also told in an interesting way. The author's voice in fresh and exciting and there are regular moments of dry humour which had me giggling out loud.
The central theme of who you are and how you can be treated differently dependent on whether you are a boy or a girl should give most children pause for thought even if it has been distance by several thousand years of history. It also deals with Halo's onset of puberty and its resultant problems in a sensitive way; it really wasn't something the author could skirt over when telling a story of a girl pretending to be a boy spanning five or so years.
There are also footnotes to this story which I found an interesting inclusion. Every now and then Corder has to use quite technical language and at the back of the book is a glossary explaining these terms. Very useful, particularly if you are planning on using this with a classful of children.
I found this a good book to read and once I started I actually didn't want to put it down. It stayed with me for quite a while afterwards too, always a sign that a book has worked.