Review of ‘Misty's Spring’, by Drew Derbyshire

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 9th October 2000, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Drew Derbyshire
Published by the Author (2000)

Into the midst of this year's bumper crop of local books comes this most intriguing work of fiction. The author - and Derbyshire is his real surname - has used his Peakland roots as inspiration for a tale of adventure, humour and fantasy. A childhood spent roving about a moorland landscape containing ancient stone circles and hilltop burial mounds, Roman roads and a disused stretch of one of England's first railways, including a tunnel beneath an Irish Sea/North Sea watershed, produced the germ of the idea that grew, over several years, into Misty's Spring.

Front Cover

The story is set in and around a fictionalised Buxton, weaving a chain which links the Roman occupation of Britain with both the Victorian era and the present day. For a reader familiar with this part of the country there are tantalising clues to unravel behind the names of some characters and places, though nothing is lost by declining this quite devilish challenge.

This is one of those books which could keep you awake pondering whether you are either missing the obvious or mistakenly anticipating what is sure to follow, in my case both, and not just once. In fact it was only on trying a different inflection to one character's name that I appreciated a quite rude pun.

The star of the show, a 16-year-old with 'tens of thousands of pounds of private education' behind her, is inclined to prompt thoughts of a mouthwash with salt and water. It is the irreverence of the author's overall style which is sure to find favour with younger (but not too young) readers though the characterisation gives the story its widest appeal. Cameo appearances show a familiarity with dialect and a thankfully rare Peakland cussedness reserved for strangers, the basis of this exchange with the occupant of an isolated cottage:
"What does tha want? This is private property."
"That's what we came to ask about," Blackfoot said, waving the map. 'It says here there's a right of .."
"Bugger off", said the man before Blackfoot could finish. "Strangers aren't welcome 'ere." ... he slammed the door shut.
Misty gave a V-sign and went and collected her boots.
"Your dog's genitally-challenged as well," shouted Emily at the cottager's door.'

Yet Drew Derbyshire promises that any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental. Mmm.

The initial run of Misty's Spring has been self-published to professional standard in semi-hardback (280 pages) and responses are now invited from mainstream publishers.

Review by Julie Bunting

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