Book review – Oy Yew, by Ana Salote
Oy is a waif. Except he doesn’t know it. He doesn’t know anything about who he is or where he came from. Hiding out in the back alley of a bakery is all he has ever known, until he is captured. When the waif-snatchers ensnare him in their net and deliver him into the hands of Mrs Rutheday at the factory, Oy’s world is turned upside down.
Set to work assembling parts, for what final use he has no idea, Oy lives and breathes factory life with his first ever friend, Linnet, until he is plucked out of the crowds and sent to be a servant for Master Jeopardine at the ‘big house’. There he must live and work until he is too tall to be of any use to the master and it’s the mystery of what happens to those who are sent away that keeps the other waifs awake at night.
With a fantastical setting, this book has echoes of a Victorian world, where the upper classes look down on the lowers and children are treated as a commodity, to be used however one sees fit. Here, the Afflish are the fortunate ones. The Porian children (known as the waifs), sent away by their families because they cannot afford to keep them, become nothing more than slaves to the Afflish. Worked to the bone, fed very little and accommodated in the most basic of conditions, all the waifs can do is dream of a better world, one where they have all the luxuries of their Afflish counterparts.
There is something different about Oy though. The other waifs can see he is special and gifted. Master Jeopardine can see it too and as a collector of bones, he has a particular interest in Oy. Hopefully, as the story progresses, what and who Oy is will be revealed, but in this first part of the trilogy, Oy’s arrival at Duldred Hall is the catalyst for change amongst the other waifs, particularly Alas, one of the older members. Alas is convinced Master Jeopardine does not have their best interests at heart and he can also see that Oy’s life may be at stake at the hands of their master.
After reading this book in a couple of days, I gave it to my twelve year old daughter and she flew through it too. We both agreed, Oy is the sweetest, loveliest boy and we cared deeply about him. The world Ana has created is vivid and interesting and holds much promise for the rest of the trilogy. We’re looking forward to continuing the saga and following the waifs as their journey continues.
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