Author: N M Browne
Release date: UK paperback 4th February 2008
Genre: Thriller / Mystery with a touch of Sci-Fi
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Summary from Amazon:
Jessica Allendon is bored and Googles her name. Weirdly, she finds another girl, same age, same name, also living in London. They arrange to meet. At the designated time and place, Jess sees the girl, shock registering on both their faces as they realise they look identical. They shake hands and in that instant are catapulted into each other's worlds. Jessica finds herself somewhere which looks like the London of 50 years ago, but the year is still 2008. In this parallel London, the history is different, key war memorials are missing, and the Jessica whose life she now inhabits was involved in a dark and sinister conspiracy. Jess must convince everyone she is the same girl, at all costs, if she wants to get back to her London - alive.
Shadow Web is a twisting tale of an alternate universe. It is part thriller, part historical novel and entirely action-packed.
Jess is your average sixteen year old girl. She lives not too far from Central London in Sheen and has a good relationship with her mum. One evening she is googling herself on the internet when she comes across an intriguing person of the same name. The other Jessica wants to meet her and so Jess ropes her best friend Johnno into going with her to the rendezvous point at Waterloo. When she arrives, there is some great cosmic melding of the two universes and the two Jessicas end out in each other’s world.
Jess finds herself in an alternate London which is in some ways very historical. There are still workhouses. Women are viewed as second class citizens and have no right to vote. They have very few opportunities and are largely uneducated. The power in this alternate society lies with rich white men – one might still argue that this is true in our world of course. The Constabulary seem to be there more to protect the status quo than to protect the citizens.
In other ways the alternate London is rather high-tech. They have a version of the internet. They are exploring the far reaches of scientific understanding. They have explosive devices. Jessica finds herself thrown into a world that is all double-agents, conspiracy theories and alliances rather than friendships.
The plot of Shadow Web is complex. As you read through Jess’s eyes, you can’t help but be confused about where the other characters’ allegiances lie. She doesn’t know who she should confide in and is alone in this alien universe. It is every part the thriller as the events race on leaving Jess wondering just who her doppelganger really was and what side she had chosen to align with.
The novel raises some really interesting questions about the choices we’ve made throughout history. It turns many fundamental events on its head. Britain is still ruling an Empire that it took without asking and the novel explores the morality of this issue. Browne constantly places Jess in unfamiliar surroundings which unnerve and disorientate her. Everything she knows is irrelevant and her life is in danger if the authorities discover the truth of her identity.
Overall, Shadow Web is a pacey, rip-roaring story. Jess is an easy to love character in a mysterious, dangerous world. A great read for fans of spy novels and tense thrillers!
Thanks to Bloomsbury Books for sending the book for review.
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