Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North by Antonia Maxwell

Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Dystopian, hope, desperation, spirit guides.
Children’s book title: Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North.
Children’s author: Antonia Maxwell.
Genre: Children’s fiction.
Published by: Neem Tree Press Limited.
ISBN: 9781915584113.
Recommended for children aged: 12+ year-olds.
First published: Paperback July 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Discussing how power can corrupt even those with the best of intentions, discussing how the meaning of family can change when your world turns upside down, and considering whether ancient beliefs can remain relevant.

Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North by Antonia Maxwell

To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.

Our review:

Mani is twelve years old and living in a world on the brink of extinction. A pandemic has decimated the human race, there is very little food and communities no longer exist in the way they used to. Electricity feeds the sickness meaning commercial ventures have disappeared, society has broken down into two groups, those infected and those not, and there is only one beacon of light left – The Ark – a scientific group determined to find a cure and save humanity.

Living in a cave in the darkness of an arctic winter Mani waits for her father’s return from a hunt for supplies until finally, as the sun begins to rise on the short daylight season, she knows it’s her turn to search taking only a sharp knife and wooden mask with her. The mask, left to her by her mother, gives Mani the ability to slip into another world where the ice cap still exists and a polar bear, wolf, eagle and crow guide and nurture her so she can continue the search for her missing father. Mani meets Leo, an infected scientist, working at a research station for The Ark, and, amazingly, she is able to provide him with a cure for Terra Electrica!

Heading towards The Ark headquarters, Leo and Mani meet Tilde, a young woman from a group of desperate vigilantes, who joins their trek across the challenging landscape. As they move closer to their ultimate destination they are stopped by a young exiled scientist who challenges their preconceptions of The Ark and its sanctuary, but is he telling the truth? They are so close to their goal but will they find Mani’s father while saving humanity and themselves in the process or instead lose everything?

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Our verdict:

There is no way around it, this is a dark story which will hopefully become a little lighter as it moves into book two and maybe beyond. Terra Electrica will be read by children who have lived through a pandemic relatively recently where families were fragmented and parents did leave home, never to return. This will either resonate and draw readers in or produce the totally opposite reaction coloured by experience and would need to be monitored closely, especially as both Leo and Mani have lost loved ones.

The three main protagonists come from three of the disparate groups at the forefront of a global disaster with Leo expounding the scientific viewpoint, while Tilde is displaced and wants to survive outside the violent, desperate group her own community has become. Mani, meanwhile, follows her family’s comforting beliefs in the power of their ancestors to guide them via the spirits and the power of the natural world even though she isn’t aware of this to start with.

Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North would be best suited to a confident, mature, reading group aged 12+.

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Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • Comparisons between the desolation of the Terra Electrica, the shock of the COVID pandemic, and how different things would have been if we too had lost our main power source. How would the resulting loss of the World Wide Web that tracked the spread of a highly contagious virus and the steps being taken to find a cure have been dealt with?
  • How easily and quickly, outside of a fictionalised account, would science and scientists consider changing their ultimate goals from innovation and discovery to self-preservation and playing God?
  • Do the spirit guides of certain cultures and religions give believers a security blanket to wrap around themselves as they struggle to survive difficult situations and isolation? If so does this give them an advantage over more popular beliefs and rituals?
  • Trigger Warning: Death of loved ones including parents and community leaders.

Many thanks to Neem Tree Press for the review copy.

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If you like Terra Electrica: The Guardians of the North by Antonia Maxwell you might also like: our reviews of When the Wild Calls by Nicola Penfold, The Last Dragon by Polly Ho-Yen, The Island at the Edge of Night by Lucy Strange, How to Teach Grown-Ups About Climate Change by Patricia Daniels, The Grimmelings by Rachael King, Ultrawild by Steve Mushin and Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth.

Browse our  Year 8 reading list.

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood