The White Tower tells the story of Livy, a lonely, bereaved girl, trembling on the edge of adolescence. When her father becomes the librarian at ancient, hallowed Temple College, Livy is granted a scholarship there. A marvellous tale of alchemy, magic, and villainy unfolds.
Livy is curiously drawn to the school roof and its towering stone winged angels. There is an evocative scene, where she tucks herself under one of their wings and looks out over the London night. The air chills, the traffic ‘growls’, and ‘the blurry light from the embankment turned the trees into glowing lollipops’. Deep in the recesses of her mind, she hears the language of the stone angels, the sound of wings beating. She is suddenly certain that she can fly.
I absolutely loved this book. My 10-year-old self would have been filled with joy by its intelligence and imagination. In best adventure story tradition, there is peril ahead for Livy. During school assembly in the grand hall, a dead bird hurtles from the sky, shattering a prized stained glass window, and plummeting to the floor. The reader senses this is a harbinger of doom.
The ensuing adventure pits magic against science. Livy must stand up to dark forces and unlock the secrets of Temple College. All this while mourning the death, from leukaemia, of her beloved friend Mahalia. Livy imagines Mahalia in some cold, distant place, and wonders if the stone Angel could fly there.
The writing is wonderful. It beautifully evokes Livy’s sad loneliness, and Mahalia’s very absence becomes an essential piece of the story. This is an intriguing and clever book. Can Livy trust her impossibly glamorous headmistress? Who is the twinkly eyed book pedlar? If you’re lucky enough to know a dreamy, sensitive, and curious child, pass on this book immediately!
‘Imagine….to mix your blood with the air and sweep through the heavens, the stars at your heels…’
The White Tower is published by Chicken House, 272 pages.