Speculative fiction with a powerful political premise for readers age 11+
On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted from apprentice to wordsmith, charged with collecting and archiving words in post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval Ark. When she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob the people of Ark of the power of speech, she realises that she has to save not only words, but the culture itself.
A beautiful and gripping dystopian story of how words make us who we are.
Experienced author – shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Award 2013 for her picturebooks
Cover design by internationally renowned illustrator and designer Steve Simpson
Winner of a White Raven Award 2015
PRAISE FOR THE WORDSMITH
‘There is a welter of post-apocalyptic novels out there at the moment, but Patricia Forde’s The Wordsmith (Little Island 285pp £7.99) stands out for its imaginative approach and its beautiful and careful use of language. The Ark is a community led by John Noa, who is gradually cutting down the list of words that people can use, believing that it was words which led people into trouble in the first place. It’s a vividly rendered allegory drawn with poetic phrasing that will suit older children with an eye for the complex.’ – Philip Womack in The Literary Review, July 2015
‘This book is important because it targets the dangers of global warming and the power of communication, love and expression. Without these words that we have, our lives would be unimaginably different. I would definitely recommend this book to all keen readers out there.’ – The Guardian
‘A novel that truly stands apart for its originality and relevance… a book about words, about language, about their power to civilise – and, in the wrong hands, to abuse and dehumanise. For a writer to deal with such themes it is the most basic of requirements that she herself should handle words in a manner which exploits their potential richness and resonance. Forde rises magnificently to the challenge… Forde’s novel blends the futuristic with the retrospective, demanding that her readers consider their own language histories and their underlying philosophies. That she does this in the context of an engaging narrative accessible to a young readership is a gratifying bonus.’ – Robert Dunbar, The Irish Times
‘The Wordsmith is warm, original, thought-provoking but most of all a tremendous page-turner; I hope this won’t be the last we hear of Letta, a brave and spirited heroine’ – School Library Association
‘This gripping story has the dark atmosphere of books such as the Hunger Games series and ends on an intriguing note that might promise sequel. And that would be another fine thing.’ – Inis Magazine, Children’s Books Ireland
‘With a strong cast of characters and an excellent premise this book is compelling reading. In the manner of some of the great and classic dystopian fiction, it tells of the way in which the world could become a worse place not just owing to an apocalypse but also to those who think they know how to lead and make right from wrong. It is a salutary story, a powerful story and a story that I highly recommend and thoroughly enjoyed. Patricia Forde is great new voice to look out for.’ – Armadillo Children’s Book Magazine, Sept 2015
‘An exciting adventure… a fascinating read.’ – Books for Keeps, July 2015
‘Fantasy lovers will lap it up’- Sarah Webb, The Irish Independent in Best Summer Reads for Young Bookworms
‘Dystopian novels have certainly come to the fore in childrens’ literature, lately. And this is one of the best. In a carefully crafted and evocative story, Forde has created a world yet to come that is powerful, mesmerising and chilling. The reader moves through this world in a dream-like state, as if taken in by a gentle nightmare … Letta looks to her own future with both courage and confusion, trying to make sense of a world in which nothing is obvious. Her very nature sets the tone for the entire story. The character of John Noa is not one of a clear-cut ‘bad guy’ megalomaniac … This is the real beauty of this novel. In so many circumstances, the opportunity to put forth a world-view, an agenda is left off, while the reader is kept in an astute, thought-provoking state by a story that will not let go.
But the real star of this tale is language itself; the power of language. The gift and the love of language and its’ ability to shape the world (for good or bad) shines through in every detail. The fact that The Wordsmith is written for an audience that would be slightly younger (I would say 10+) than the typical dystopian readership is a wonderful gift. The writing is clear and purposeful. The ideas are easy to follow and deliberate. It is filled with reality and illusion. The ending is satisfying, yet left with an openness that begs the reader to consider further. And the entire book reads with a fluidity and dedication that make this book one that you will return to again and again. Thoroughly unique in its approach and simply stunning.‘ – Mary Esther Judy, Children’s Buyer, Dubray Books
‘An exciting fiction debut combining a strong narrative voice with an excellent storyline. As she grows into the story, Forde’s confidence as a storyteller grows to such an extent that the narrator disappears completely from the page and the reader becomes totally absorbed in the story. Not only is the book a most enjoyable experience for the reader, it adds a new bright star to the pantheon of Galway children’s authors. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long for the next magical journey.’ – Des Kenny, Kennys Bookshop
‘brilliantly original concept with superb world-building & feisty female lead’ – Abi Elphinstone, author
‘I was hooked from the beginning – I loved the concept of this book, the joy it takes in language, the way words are collected and savoured … The discussion in the book about the value of the arts, about their ability to disrupt and say important things (with and without words) is an important and well argued one.’ – Zoe Toft, children’s books reviewer
‘This book is important because it targets the dangers of global warming and the power of communication, love and expression. Without these words that we have, our lives would be unimaginably different. I would definitely recommend this book to all keen readers out there.’ – Cleopatra, Guardian children’s books site young reviewer.
‘The Wordsmith is a gripping dystopian read that will make the reader think about the role and importance of language in their own life … World building is a real strength of this novel, the society is richly crafted and vividly described. The narrative is compelling, building up to a dramatic conclusion.’ – Jenny Duffy, children’s books reviewer (The Books, the Art and Me blog)
‘Forde’s concept of an apocalyptic world repressed of language is both original and superbly done… Forde’s writing is beautiful…and as the book reached its conclusion, the tension was so high Moontrug had to read the last few chapters pacing the room. A fantastic book – original and fierce – and Moontrug is looking forward to what Forde has in store for us all next…’ – Abi Elphinstone, author and children’s books reviewer (Moontrug blog)
‘Very impressive debut set in a dystopian future. Letta is a great heroine – kind, compassionate and brave. Forde’s world is very real and well built and the writing is superb. The book has some very interesting things to say about religion, the environment, art, power, and of course, language. I loved it!’ – Kieran Fanning, author
‘One of the most unique books I’ve ever read’ – RTE Bookclub on SwipeTV
‘This is a great story, full of suspense, I love that words are seen as important and powerful, that you must choose your words carefully and that they are seen as something to collect-not that they are restricted though! The background to the story is also thought provoking, a world that has reverted back to nature, wolves roam free and conservation is on everyone’s minds. This dystopian young adult novel is a fantastic read, hoping there will be a sequel!’ – Ballyroan Library
‘A beautifully written tale illustrating the importance of language and creativity and the power they have to change lives. With a detailed narrative and clever plot, you are instantly drawn into the post-apocalyptic world of Ark.’ – The Book Activist
‘Forde balances contemplation with action successfully, presenting an electric sci-fi novel with a strong ecological and moral stance’ – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, USA
‘[A] gripping postapocalyptic thriller… it is a well-crafted page-turner, as well as a compelling commentary on censorship and the role of language, while also inviting discussion about what distinguishes humans from animals. For dystopian fiction aficionados, this well-paced entry offers plenty of food for thought.’ – School Library Journal
‘If you love speculative fiction and dystopian worlds, this one is a must-read! It fits snuggly into the definition of middle fiction, but, honestly, it transcends age. Young or old, if this is the type of story you like to read, you will love this addictive novel.’ – Kids’ Book Review
‘This is a love letter to the ways love and art can lift our spirits and replenish our souls in a world that often seems dark.’ —BookPage
‘An intriguing speculation about authoritarian futures.’ —Kirkus Reviews
‘An electric sci-fi novel with a strong ecological and moral stance.’ —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
‘A spellbinding book about language, the environment, and humanity’s role in protecting them both…A beautiful and absorbing read you won’t soon forget.’ —Bustle
‘1984 for this century’s middle schoolers. Forde has built a fascinating world.’ —Buffy Cummins, Second Star to the Right
‘I absolutely devoured this powerful book that is reminiscent of The Giver and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.’ —Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop
‘A wonderful page turner and one I could not put down.’ —Judith Lafitte, Octavia Books
‘Forde’s exploration of language as both weapon and saviour is a noble one, and environmental undertones bolster its power. Pair with Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go.’ —Booklist
Patricia Forde lives in Galway, in the west of Ireland. She has published five books for children, and written two plays, as well as several television drama series for children and teenagers. She has worked as a writer on both English and Irish language soap operas. In another life, she was a primary school teacher and the artistic director of Galway Arts Festival.