Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Number of pages: 470
Published: December 1st, 2017
Source: In exchange for an honest review a copy was received from the author.
Opening Line: "H-h-how did I die?' the girl asked as a cold tremor wracked her body."
Clemmie's War centers on ten-year-old Clementine Beaumont, a young girl who awakens in a cold stark white room with a man gently stitching up a gash on her head. The only thing she can remember is that her name is Clemmie. Dr. Nicholas Rose, the man doing the stitching, explains that she's in Heartsease, a transitional place between life and death and that the amnesia she is experiencing is only temporary. In the meantime, he suggests Clemmie stay at Chalk House, a home Dr. Rose runs for dead children. In return, he plans to try and piece together the circumstances surrounding her death.
The premise of Clemmie's War is what sparked my interest in reading this, "a girl with amnesia living in an enchanted home for dead children. Who when her memory returns plans to wage war on those who killed her." Intriguing right? I'm thinking paranormal, maybe a little murder mystery, brings to mind questions like how did Clemmie die? Who killed her and why? In the first few pages, Boyes quickly sets the scene with the details of Clemmie waking up in what appears to be an operating room or doctors office to find that she has died. It kinda makes you pause for a moment, especially when Clemmie is looking down at her own dead body on the table. It's creepy, but not scary. And very sad when you learn that Clemmie died of unnatural causes with injuries inflicted by another person. Which is how Clemmie now finds herself in the care of Dr. Rose. Naturally, Clemmie's frightened, confused and struggling to understand what has happened to her. As is the reader. Because of her amnesia, the important details about her past take some time to uncover, but one thing is clear someone killed her. Most of the stories I've been reading lately involve strong, fierce kids who solve their own problems. Adults aren't even in the picture or at least not usually a central character, helping or guiding the story along in the way that Dr. Rose does. However, in Clemmie's War, it's necessary that he help her piece together her past and I actually grew quite fond of Dr. Rose and his love of toffee's. Seriously this man loves his toffee's. He was kind, very eager to help Clemmie, and most importantly to keep her safe while her memory returned. He's Clemmie's first introduction to the world of Heartsease and Chalk House and it was really sweet how Clemmie became a part of this extended family of dead kids.
The story incorporates many different themes including the afterlife, time travel, and an alternate, but parallel time period. When Clemmie died she stepped into a future with computers and refrigerators, leaving the Great Seaboard War 0f 1943 behind. Slowly, she begins to have glimpses of her memories from the past and the vague details of witnessing a spy planning to aid an invading army. It isn't until Dr. Rose takes her to the present day town of Meonwara that Clemmie is able to piece together her story and the link of her arrival in Heartsease to the reason for many of the strange occurrences that have been happening. The sudden tremors that have been wracking Chalk House, the spontaneous appearance of Sprigs or little fairies and flowers that magically appear in the hallway. Clemmie's arrival in Heartsease resulted in a time-rift altering the past requiring great effort and ingenuity to repair.
Harry Jewel, Clemmie's grandfather is the villain of the story and an evil man. He follows Clemmie to Heartsease on a mission to question anyone who's come in contact with her about her whereabouts all while plotting to retrieve something she stole from him. There are lots of twists and turns surrounding his arrival, leading Dr. Rose and the inhabitants of Chalk House to develop their own plans to keep Harry Jewel from capturing Clemmie. They play this game of cat and mouse stalking each other, developing battle plans for going to war, with elaborate traps, rigging Harry's car with tracking devices and they have him arrested to thwart his plans. However, nothing compares to when Clemmie fully regains her memory and she makes her own plans to exact revenge on those who killed her.
Overall, this was on the longer side, 470 pages, but the chapters were fairly short making it a fairly quick read and the characters and premise were interesting and unique. Aside from the very beginning of the story, it's easy to forget that all the characters are dead and instead you get wrapped in all the plotting and scheming against Harry Jewel. Clemmie is one determined little girl and I was very happy with the way that the story resolved. I also really liked the positive message of how the people we love leave a lasting impression on us. Not to be missed is the authors note where she shares that each of the characters was named after a flower.
Favorite Line: "Everyone we loved, and lost, have left a footprint in our hearts. And when they call out to remind us of their love, each ripple, each chord, will pull on our heart-strings. It can be a feather-light tickle, or a tug so hard it can make us cry. But either way, you are not alone."