The Two Pendants: The Children of Pisces, Book 1 by R.E. Lewin
Reviewed by Steven French
This is a YA novel aimed at a 10–18 year-old readership, although I think it is best suited for those at the lower end of that range. It opens with a pregnant woman being pursued by remorseless hunters, before skipping ahead to the same woman leaving each of her four babies in different locations in hopes that they can find safety. The story proper begins with one of the four, Tammy, sneaking into the office of the orphanage where she has ended up and discovering a curious pendant left to her by her mum. On a trip to an island Noah’s Ark where at least two of every species of animal have been saved after the deadly Pisces virus swept over the planet, Tammy displays an extraordinary affinity with the animals that allows her to climb into the pen with one of the jaguars and befriend it (here the author might have included a warning: Kids! Don’t try this at your local zoo!!). After she’s adopted by the owners of the reserve, Ed and Jude, Tammy begins to explore her powers and while on a trip to Africa, not only saves some lions from hunters but also a small child from crocodiles, creatures who prove strangely resistant to her abilities.
Interleaved with Tammy’s story are chapters featuring Mikie, who can not only read minds but impose his will on them, forcing people to do what he wants—which, in at least two cases, involves people doing something gross with ‘bogies’ (episodes that further reinforce my belief that the book should really be aimed at a pre-teen readership). Tammy realises that Mikie is her brother after making contact through a weird dream sequence. Mikie then reveals that they have two other siblings, Mina and Diego, who likewise have special powers. Unfortunately, however, danger lurks close by in the form of flying bug-like robots called ‘seekers’. These have been sent to look for the children, and their discovery triggers an explosive finale that affects not only Tammy and Mikie but also their nearest and dearest and which sets things up for the sequel.
It is only at this point that an element of real excitement enters the narrative with much of it reading as if from a different era. The dialogue, for example, seems rather stilted, especially the kids’, and there are numerous expository passages which serve to quash any rising tension. Some of these, I suspect, will invite cries of ‘Wait, what?”, especially from any cynical teens who happen to be reading. So, for example, we are told that Tammy and Ed (plus her horse and jaguar) travel to South Africa using a hoverplane that moves along a flat strip constructed out of recycled plastic. How this tremendous feat of engineering was achieved is not explained nor how the geographical obstacles along the way were overcome. Perhaps it was thanks to the aliens who, as Ed reveals towards the end, saved all the animals and their human keepers from the pandemic by building a huge dome-like shield that rose out of the sea and covered the entire island. And setting aside that particular admission, the detailed account of just how much food the elephants need immediately makes the reader wonder about the resources required to sustain representatives from every species on Earth, not to mention the provision of appropriate habitats and environmental conditions.
Obvious invitations to puzzlement such as this detract from what would otherwise be quite a sweet tale about a young girl discovering that not only is she extraordinary but is also not alone. Hopefully the rest of the series will focus more on that and less on technical devices that snap any suspension of disbelief.