Night Maze – Annie Dalton
Mandarin Paperbacks, 1990
After a childhood spent drifting from one foster home to another Gerard Noone has finally, cautiously, begun to settle when his mother’s family suddenly make contact for the first time. Untrusting but unable to resist the pull of his curiosity, he enters the world of Owlcote, a deteriorating Elizabethan mansion where a bitter echo of a past tragedy has been eating away at the Noones for generations, but the only one who will acknowledge it is Gerard’s haunted cousin Harriet, who is in danger of becoming consumed by it. What was Gerard’s mother so afraid of that she fled the house and never came back, and how many more lives can it destroy?
This YA fantasy has been on my To Read pile for an embarrassing length of time after being picked up on a whim at a book sale. The style and subject remind me a bit of Margaret Mahy, though Night Maze also bears some surprising similarities to Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken. The portrayal of even the most unlikeable characters is well nuanced, while Gerard and Harriet are complex protagonists with unexpected weaknesses and strengths. My favourite aspect of the book was how all Gerard’s most beloved mentor figures were women, and this was treated as perfectly normal. I’d love to see more of that.