(4.5 out of 5 stars)
“And Stones Shall Dance” by David Pickering turned out to be one of those surprise novels I know is going to stick with me for many years to come. I say `surprise’ because my normal taste in novels falls more toward paranormal romance than literary fiction, though romance is involved. I decided to give it a look off the recommendations of a few friends and I’m very happy that I did.
Pickering begins his story when Elk decides to accept an invitation to a New Year’s Eve Ball, a costume party being held at White Abbey House–a private school for boys he had attended many years before. From the start the author begins to cleverly weave the two halves of Elk’s life together, smoothly slipping from past to present and back again. It is a coming of age story certainly, but also much, much more. Who of us can’t look back to our high school days and wonder what had made us behave in a certain, often times embarrassing, manner? Changing hormones, teenage angst, troubled family life (some abused, some spoiled) or is it beyond our understanding? Perhaps my own curiosity with the supernatural stems from one of these mysterious rites of passage we all seem to go through as we grow into adults — an exciting, but often frightening time. What about the lifelong consequences of past mistakes? Are we doomed to suffer for them until our dying day? I’ve read a lot of coming of age stories over the years, but none that affected me quite the way Pickering’s story did. Even as a woman, I found I was able to connect with Elk, perhaps because his story brought back memories from my own past, some I can smile about, others that haunt me. I think a little bit of everyone can be found inside these pages, though some buried deeper than others, still there.
Elk and Miles are roommates in a private school for boys. Miles’ family also happens to run the school, his father the headmaster, though he tends to leave the day to day decisions in the hands of his brother, Lucas. Although Elk likes Miles well enough, it’s his sister Avril who catches his attention, a love-at-first-sight type of attention. But Avril isn’t the only young woman in the household. Avril and Miles have a cousin Augusta, a mysterious girl Elk doesn’t know what to think about. At times he finds himself attracted to her beauty and aloof nature, but he also accepts the attraction comes mixed with a healthy dose of unease and fear. There is something odd about Augusta and Elk is not sure he wants to learn what.
I’m not going to give any plot details away by going further. One needs to read the story firsthand to pick up all the finer details necessary to appreciate the surprise at the end. I did struggle with my decision on scoring 4 instead of 5 stars, the reason because of the very detail that made me love this novel. From the start we are kept moving fast between past and present and I admit on a couple of occasions I found myself tripped up. But then again, perhaps this reader was in too big a hurry to learn what happened and didn’t pay close enough attention to well-marked scene breaks. If I could I’d give “And Stones Shall Dance” 4.5 stars.
Excellent story, great writing by David Pickering, and a wonderful adventure. I feel confident recommending the novel no matter what the age of the reader. Whether you are just heading toward those confusing and often times painful high school years, or far past them (like myself) and looking back, I’m sure you’ll find areas that hit home. It even has hints of the paranormal through popular legends about a mysterious circle of stones known as the Hag Stones. I plan to read “And Stones Shall Dance” again in a few years as I’m sure there are many details I might have missed on this first go around.