You may not have heard of William Nicholson – he’s the sort of author who likes to stay under the radar and hasn’t succumbed to the timeslurp of Twitter, even though he’s played an important part in several huge films (Gladiator, Les Miserables to mention a few) and had his own successes in YA/MG genres (albeit closer to the turn of the millennium).
In my own reading, he’s played an important role: his Wind on Fire trilogy was a formative part of my early reading and continually informs my tastes with its dry, desolate landscapes and exploration of religious ideas. It’s a series I’ve wanted to return to for some time – though now the perfect excuse has arisen in the form of an OBE for Nicholson. For those who aren’t in the know, an OBE is one of many honours that the Queen distributes annually to people who have recognisable achieved something to benefit their community, society or nation. You can read a little more about his own thoughts on his recognition in his blog post “Being Honoured“.
The Wind on Fire Trilogy
If you haven’t read Nicholson before I definitely suggest you start with his Wind on Fire trilogy: though for a slightly younger readership than his second trilogy (I’d call it a crossover for YA/MG), the books still have a lot to say to older readers. In broad brush-strokes the trilogy outlines the Journey of the Manth people as they undergo an Exodus from a dystopian society to a promised land. There are obvious parallels to the Exodus of the Israelites in the Bible but as a lapsed catholic, Nicholson presents a rawer and altogether different tale of a persecuted nation.
The Noble Warriors Trilogy
The Noble Warriors Trilogy has a less-obvious Judeao-Christian influence but still wrestles with problems of faith and deity as three young men and women are adopted into the religious community of the Nom, a group of warriors who protect their their God The One and Only using their psychic ability alone. As the young initiates progress through their training, truths and untruths they have always held to be true slowly start to unravel. Apart from being a marvellously inventive fantasy trilogy, the trilogy works on a higher intellectual level and raises interesting questions about religion and faith.
Rich and Mad
Nicholson’s third and final (to date, at least) YA novel is Rich and Mad; as a contemporary story of loving and living it marks a change of genre from the Wind on Fire and Noble Warriors trilogies.