The Switching Hour by Damaris Young is utterly, jaw-droppingly amazing. It’s creeps under your skin until it grips and refuses to let go drifting you deeper and deeper into its spell.
If you like the lyrical style and myth filled peril of Kiran Millwood Hargrave, if you loved the high stakes time pressured Quest to save a sibling in that Topsy turvy can’t trust your senses way of Labyrinth, if you crackle with delight of hunting down a Jabberwockian Monster worthy of Stranger Things then you MUST read The Switching Hour.
And then you will want a pet goat.
Mama is gone, it’s just Amaya and Kaleb now living with Granny Uma in the grasslands that are so parched thanks to an endless drought. A Terrible Drought that has awoken an ancient evil the Badeko, a creature that steals away children to sups on their dreams causing the left behind to succumb to a devastating Sorrow Sickness of grief but the torment of never knowing what it is you’ve lost.
The Badeko comes at Night, after the Switching Hour, you must be behind a locked door by the end of Twilight or you risk being lost. Amaya is left with toddler Kaleb in an emergency and the toll of caring for him leads to a forgotten task and a vanished brother in the morning.
Amaya journeys across the Blackened Forest in search of the Dead Tree, the Home Of The Badeko to rescue her brother before she forgets him, accompanied by her faithful companion Tau the goat and meeting with Mally on the way, and a creature that causes wonderful hallucinations before snatching you the stakes have never been higher.
“The stories are gifts, given to us by those that love us, who wish to warn us of what lurks in the dark. It will be your responsibility to pass it on as well, when the time comes.”
Oh MY GOODNESS!! Where do I start this book is so fantastic, I stayed up til almost 1am to finish it as I could NOT put it down!! I was then creeped out because hey the Badeko comes at night people!!!
This book has a magic about it, an earthy, primal, feminine magic about it, even though it’s not a book that uses magic as a plot device, Amaya is utterly ordinary, flawed and struggling yet she casts a spell over the reader to root for her to hope and dare with her.
The way we explore through her tale the bonds of love, the courage of a sister to fight the devil for her little brother is spellbinding.
I could feel the day seeping through my fingers like sand. Every grain and second was important. “It’s already the second day since Kaleb’s been missing.”
There is a delicious flavour of the film Labyrinth about this with big sister guilt, but instead of wishing him away, she’s wishing she had their mama back to be responsible for him because she is just a kid herself, and instead of a crystal ball juggling Goblin King it’s a dream eating demon. The fight that Amaya finds within herself could move mountains, continents and it’s GLORIOUS to see a fierce but loving character who stumbles, falls but stares into the face of a demon and demands her brother back.
Tau the goat is just the BEST sidekick character! A blend of faithful steed, loyal hound and a dash of cheeky chappy Tau is just wonderful. Raised by hand his canine behaviours and devotion to Amaya is a wonderful softness and tenderness amongst the darkness and fear.
Without the rains this creature was stuck,halfway between this world and the next. it was born by the drought and passed away with the rains… As the drought progressed, the creature had turned to the dreams of children to satisfy its increasing hunger…And with each feed the creature grew stronger.
And the Badeko? This is a creature that is worthy of the Upside Down and Amaya takes it on bare-handed without any of Eleven’s powers, just a grit to save her baby brother at all costs. It is SERIOUSLY a creepy in a wonderful way, hair-raising, goosebumps tingling in the night time domain of this macabre creature.
Young originally wrote this during a heatwave and I read this during one too (well the day after the hottest day on record) and this story is clearly an allegory for the dangers of climate change, that we are letting the dreams of children be sucked away by the greed of those so intent on fulfilling their own needs they become monsters.
We followed the path that wound through the densewood trees, bare as skeletons, the dry leaves crumbling into dust under our feet. The grass was bleached white as teeth by the sun.
The immersion in a drought savaged land is full sensory, the taste of grit and dust as the wells wither to dredged silt, the burn of the blazing sun on skin and sunscorched earth on feet, the crispy fragility of plants and trees clinging to life via deep taproots stretching for the barest drops deep underground. The clouds of red dust and rotten stink of a river dried to sludge put us right there with Amaya struggling through the cruel weather begging for the rains to put them all out of their misery.
The Switching Hour is exactly the kind of book that I would have read to pieces as a child but there wasn’t anything as deeply darkly wonderful as this within the safety of children’s literature.
This raised my hairs & caught my breath & stirred my soul in that delicious way that makes me want more more more of this writer. Dark Perfection.
The Switching Hour by Damaris Young is published by Scholastic on August 1st.
Thank you so much to Damaris & Scholastic for an early copy 💜💜💜