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The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell – Published by Piccadilly Press

Imagine a world without colour…

Auden Dare is an ordinary eleven-year-old in most respects except for one. He cannot see colour.

But when Auden uncovers a secret in his uncle’s shed, an extraordinary mystery begins to unravel – one that could change the future of the world and Auden’s life forever…

The Shark Caller was one of my stand out favourite books of 2021 and will forever hold a special place on my bookshelves, so I was eager to read more of Zillah Bethell’s work. Auden Dare (published in 2017) couldn’t be more different in terms of setting and storyline but I think for me, that’s the beauty of this book after reading the more recent Shark Caller. Many authors stick with a particular genre but not Zillah, and after reading this, I’m left wondering if there’s a genre she can’t write! Dystopia, science fiction, war, environmental issues and a thrilling mystery…this book has it all!

There really is something that will appeal to every reader within the pages of Auden Dare, it really is an extraordinary story. As a huge fan of dystopia and mystery this was my hook but fans of sci-fi with be equally thrilled by the scientific and engineering elements. This is the perfect book for fans of Between Sea & Sky and Adam-2

The story is set in an imagined future that scarily could become our own. The world is at war over water. In Auden Dare’s world there isn’t enough to go round and countries are dependent on the tiny drizzles of rain that happen once or twice a year. Supplies are strictly rationed and Government agency, the oppressive Water Allocation Board rule with an iron fist, terrorising the people. The Edge of Britain is a protected area and huge desalination units dominate the coastline. There were so many spooky parallels with the problems our society currently faces that were so eeeerily accurate that this felt like a prophecy in places. The cost of fuel and everyday items sky-rocketing was sadly spot on. Under the watch of drones, basic commodities are dispensed from futuristic vending machines. Potatoes retail at £5,000 a bag and meat is now completely unaffordable for most – beef steak costing in excess of £80,000.

Auden’s father has gone away to fight and with his mother struggling to make ends meet with the astronomical cost of living, she decides to uproot them and relocate to Cambridge. There they can stay in the cottage she has recently inherited from Auden’s Uncle Jonah where they can live rent free.

Blue, green, pink, purple, yellow, red…they are all just words to Auden. He can’t see any of them. Everything is just grey as he has a condition with a long unpronounceable name and at his old school, this often made him a target for school bullies. But at his new school in Cambridge, he quickly buddies up with class-mate Vivi and whilst clearing out junk from his eccentric inventor uncle’s shed, the pair make an intriguing discovery. Old letters and a search of Jonah’s office at the university reveal that his recent death was almost certainly suspicious and more mystery unfolds at every twist and turn. The children are forced down a dangerous path – can their friendship save the world?

As a die-hard mystery fan I can honestly say I did not guess the ending, which I have to say is so incredibly moving. Firmly at the heart of this captivating, multi-faceted book is a story of friendship which Auden learns can be discovered in the most unlikeliest of places. The pages are also peppered with humour which had me chuckling along with the characters, even at times of seemingly great peril!

Whether it’s sci-fi and mystery in a dystopian future or the supernatural on the shores of sunny Papau New Guinea, Zillah Bethell’s writing is truly captivating. I can’t wait to see what direction she takes her writing in next.

The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare, published by Piccadilly Press is available now from all good bookshops.

Also by Zillah Bethell…

Click on the cover to read my review.

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