Tregarthur's Promise by Alex Mellanby
Published: 1 October 2013 (Cillian Press)
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Source: Received free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Cillian Press!
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Abandoned by his mum and with his dad in prison, 16 year old Alvin is facing life on the streets. Taking refuge in a school hiking expedition across Dartmoor, Alvin sees it as a way of avoiding his problems, but he didn't account for Miss Tregarthur and her dreadful Promise. Following catastrophic events, Alvin finds himself, together with his old friend Jenna, lost in an unknown time and place, leading a group of school children in a desperate fight for survival. Disease, death and disaster follow them as they try to decipher the Promise and search for the way back home. But Miss Tregarthur has not played her last game.
"'Her face twisted in a hideous snarl as she howled: 'YOU - Alvin Carter - YOU - keep my promise''"
When I first saw the plot summary of this book I was intrigued, especially after it was compared to Lord of the Flies, a book I enjoyed. Tregarthur's Promise follows Alvin and his friends as they end up fighting for survival after a school trip goes wrong.
I feel like this book had a lot of potenital, and could have been something really interesting, but in the end the strange mish mash of ideas just didn't work for me. The start of the story had my attention. We're introduced to Alvin who comes from a drug dealing family with a reputation for violence and he was someone I was looking forward to discovering more about. Unfortunately I strugged to connect with the characters throughout the book. There were rare moments where two characters would sit and have a heart to heart and you got a glimpse into who they were, but besides that I just couldn't engage with any of them. There were also a lot of characters to get your head around and they're all introduced very quickly which made it hard to keep track. Even Alvin didn't know who half the people were.
What drives the story is the mystery and it did hold my attention somewhat as I wanted to find out just what was going on. Caught in the midst of an earthquake, Alvin's teacher Miss Tregarthur gives him a mysterious message about a promise she's made and leaves it for him to decipher. The mystery of the promise isn't revealed until quite late in the book and I did like finding out those answers to what was happening. Sadly the middle of the book was just a bit too slow pacing wise and meant by that time my attention was already starting to waver.
I do like survival stories so I was interested at first to see how the characters coped with the situation they're in. You see them learning to hunt for food and feed themselves and adapt to their surroundings which was entertaining. I also could appreciate the exploration of the characters when faced with that situation, which I think is where the Lord of the Flies comparison comes in. Suddenly these kids have to defend themselves and try and create some sort of organisation and leadership. I think Zach's character development in these scenes was the one real highlight.
I was on the fence about Tregarthur's Promise until the second half of the book, where the culmination of ideas just got a bit too out there for me. It's one of those books that's a bit hard to define genre wise because of all those ideas. I struggled with the world building and believability and would constantly finding myself questioning elements of the plot which didn't work for me. There were just too many things going on at once for me to be able to lose myself in the story.
It's a short book and it was a quick read, and it's not that I hated it. I just don't think enough of it clicked for me and I couldn't connect with the characters enough to invest myself in their situation. I wasn't keen on the ending either, which seemed rushed and unbelievable. There was a cliffhanger thrown in which will possibly grab people's attention enough for the sequel, but I'm not sure it's a series I'll be continuing with.
What to read next: This is the first in a planned series
Books like this: Lord of the Flies by William Golding