Shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers
1752. As winter approaches, two guilty secrets drive seventeen-year-old Agnes Trussel to run away from her home in rural Sussex. Pregnant with an unwanted child and carrying stolen coins, she is shocked by the squalor and poverty of London.
She finds work as an assistant to John Blacklock, a dark, laconic firework-maker. As her weaver’s fingers learn to make rockets, portfires, stars, fiery rain, she becomes intrigued by the glitter and roar of fireworks.
Soon she meets Cornelius Soul, seller of gunpowder, and hatches a plan which could save her. But why does Blacklock so vehemently disapprove of Mr Soul? And what is Blacklock hiding from her? Could he be on the brink of a discovery that will change pyrotechny forever?
Meanwhile, her own secret is becoming harder to conceal, especially from the suspicious eye of Mrs Blight, the housekeeper with a thirst for hangings. Caught between her crime and her condition it appears that ruin must be inevitable…
Jane Borodale displays a deft touch in this very pleasing story.
Spectacular debut … a fresh and fascinating investigation into the art and science of pyrotechnics.
A delightfully diverting book. Borodale builds a dark but human world that makes Agnes’s plight deeply sympathetic.