It seemed a high-risk strategy to me. The winners of the Young Critics competition – aged about eight and up – were each given a scroll, but told not to open them yet, as they would reveal the winner. If I’d been in charge, I’d had lined the children up against the wall, and told them to stand there and not move for the next ten minutes, but all went well and nothing was leaked.
It was left to Mal Peet – last year’s winner – to award the prize to Michelle Paver, for Ghost Hunter, the final part of her highly-praised Chronicles of Ancient Darkness sequence. She paid tribute to her editor, Fiona Kennedy of Orion, and to her agent, Peter Cox, and said something every author will recognise: when Fiona sent a text message to say that she liked the draft, Michelle had to text back to ask, “But did you really?”
It’s a great month for Michelle – her adult novel, Dark Matter, is published, also by Orion. It sounds irresistible: a ghost story involving Arctic exploration. I haven’t read her winning book, so can’t comment on it, but from what I know of Michelle’s writing I can’t wait to get hold of a copy of Dark Matter.
From the publisher's press release:
Michelle collects the £1,500 prize for the only children's award in which authors are judged by their peers.
Julia Eccleshare chair of the judges said, “Whatever the individual judges thought about fantasy before they began Ghost Hunter – and some admitted to hating it! – they were immediately captivated by Michelle’s brilliantly created world, her wonderfully dramatic story and her powerful story telling. They loved the way she described the world she has been fashioning throughout the series saying, “The language is inventive and rich. Sharp and poetic but also child friendly”. They also adored her characters describing Wolf as “endearing” and the people as “real”. Finally, one summed Ghost Hunter up in terms of awe: “The construct of the world is amazing. I am jealous and impressed!”
Michelle Paver says of the award: “I’m thrilled and delighted that Ghost Hunter has won this award – especially given the amazing quality of the other short-listed books. And somehow, I find it particularly gratifying that it is the final book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which has won, because it’s the book in which Torak and Wolf reach journey’s end.”