Ante’s Inferno – Griselda Heppel

“Twelve year-old Ante (Antonia) Alganesh has a problem. It’s lunchbreak and Florence’s gang are after her. Desperate for a place to hide, she climbs the forbidden staircase to the old organ loft, where a hundred years ago a boy tumbled to his death. No one will think of looking for her there… Except Florence. Petrified, Ante watches her enemy approach, leaning on the rotten hand-rail. She shouts a warning, but it’s too late. There’s a crash – and a boy appears from nowhere, just as a door opens in the wall behind them. All three find themselves in a tunnel leading to a river bank where people queue to be rowed across by a filthy old ferryman…”

When I received this book in the post to review, two things grabbed my attention: one, its brilliantly gloomy yet colourful cover that somehow reminds me of The Deathly Harrows from Harry Potter (the gold stick bearing a resemblance to the Elder Wand, in case anyone was wondering how I made that connection). Two, that it was a work of fiction mixed with Greek mythology. As a big fan of the subject myself, I couldn’t wait to start this novel and see how well the two would go together.

Very well, as it turned out. It’s easy to make fiction stuffy once history gets involved, but with this book, Griselda Heppel breathes fresh air into children’s fiction. It makes for an intelligent reader that serves to educate the reader and improve their current knowledge of the subject, rather than patronise them.

Ante’s Inferno is a story about Ante (Antonia) Alganesh, who is always being bothered by Florence. One day, following an altercation, Ante accidentally throws pepper in her eyes – a move she instantly comes to regret as the girls begin chasing her to drag her to the Head for punishment. She runs into the disused, rotting organ loft to hide – but Florence has predicted her move and follows her in there. Fear turns to terror as Florence edges over to where Ante is hiding and the balcony rail she is holding comes away from the wall. They both fall into the darkness, but but when they wake up, they’re not in the organ loft… And they’re definitely not alone…

Enemies Florence and Ante must journey the Underworld with Gil, a boy who died years ago but hasn’t yet passed on, to meet their reckoning and find out what is to become of them. The Shopping Maul and the Multivice Complex are just two of the terrifying places they have to navigate through to reach their destination – and all three must combine their wits and school education to get back to where they belong.

An intelligent, fascinating piece of fiction that is refreshingly different from the dystopian, vampire-stuffed young adult books currently dominating the market.

This review will appear in a future issue of The Self Publishing Magazine. Many thanks to Matador for the review copy.

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