This book is charming middle-grade fantasy novel about a young sparrow named Sheer. Sheer reminds us that even when there is no hope, and all is dark, there is still light to be found, still something good in the world.
“Everything was desolate empty, hollow.
Except for one tree. One strong, persevering tree. Just ahead I could see it through the mist. It had a few leaves, still green despite the fact that it was mid-winter. How had it survived?”
-Lydia Deyes, A Song in the Rain
The book starts off with Sheer waking up in a terrible fire, with no idea where he is, and his hearing gone. Deaf and confused, he seeks help, but a dark force follows him and ruins every place he tries to call home, until he meets the animals of the thirteenth floor.
This was an unexpected and fun twist. Samuel, the lynx leading the animals who call the thirteenth floor of a building in the human city home, grants Sheer protection with special magic. And he isn’t the only one with magic. Sheer has begun to realize he has a certain magic too, one that he doesn’t understand. Samuel helps Sheer learn how to cope with his newfound deafness, while also helping him to come to understand that he is the catalyst in a prophecy–one that concerns the dark force that Sheer encountered.
Sheer must confront several creatures who have been taken in by the dark force. These animals are featured on the gorgeous cover: Nyoka the snake, Finsternis the wolf, and Spike the crow.
Sheer finds himself uniting the animals of the forest and the thirteenth floor, to prepare them–so they can save themselves from the coming darkness, helped to spread by the snake, the wolf, and the crow. Sheer is thrust into leadership, and suffers many losses and even betrayal, but most interestingly, he wages a war with himself.
The inner turmoil Sheer experiences is what is special about this book. He experiences greed and then guilt, desire for power coupled with self doubt, loyalty and loneliness. The feelings of this little sparrow are big.
It’s sectioned into four parts, each part having a particular challenge Sheer faces. Overall a great middle-grade read.
The only question I was left wondering, was how the thirteenth floor came to be. Samuel and the other animals have been there for a while, and they have an established and lively community that Sheer comes to join. Maybe a short story or a prequel is in the author’s head somewhere?