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The Book of Sand


The Book of Sand

by Mo Hayder, writing as Theo Clare

Spider finds himself in the furthest corner of an antique desert. The unofficial leader of a “family” of 11, he knows that he is originally from France and that each family member comes from somewhere else. Yet they are all drawn together on a mission to find a secret book, and they have only a limited number of attempts to do this lest they all perish. This sand-filled desert world, also known as the Cirque, seems similar to our own, but is also quite different and filled with creatures and denizens that will do anything to keep them from succeeding.

McKenzie Strathie is a teenager and an above-average student from Fairfax County, Virginia, with dreams of going to the California Institute of Technology and becoming an engineer. Little does she know that all of her plans will be derailed by the sudden and strange appearance of a sand-lizard that she swears she sees in her bedroom.

"What follows is a literal shift in the sands of the narrative that is simply brilliant and brings the second half together into one cohesive tale."

Thus begins the parallel storylines that make up THE BOOK OF SAND, an epic novel by international bestselling author Mo Hayder (writing as Theo Clare).

McKenzie and her best friend, India, are preparing to win the big science fair, which could be a real seal-the-deal moment for McKenzie’s Caltech dream. She wants to put together tanks of sand and show how different sand dune formations are made. For whatever reason, ever since childhood, she has been obsessed with sand.

McKenzie has found and captured the lizard, which she names Mr. Blond. When it comes time to present at the science fair, she goes through a complete demonstration using the lizard. However, it turns out to be an epic fail when she realizes that she was the only one who could see Mr. Blond. McKenzie’s parents send her to a psychiatrist to figure out if she is suffering from a tumor, schizophrenia or something else.

Convinced that her life is over and with Caltech now on the scrap heap, McKenzie is deleting hundreds of nasty messages on her social media accounts until she finds one from Newt in Seattle, who watched the science fair online. He claims that he saw the lizard and needs to speak with her right away. When they connect, Newt refers to the feeling as limbic resonance, whereby people can share the same emotional information based on what’s in the limbic system.

What McKenzie would like to shrug off as more craziness begins to make sense as she researches the topic further. It also makes her think more about her sand obsession, specifically a trip she took with her parents to Phoenix when she was three years old and was found burrowed into the sand, claiming she was listening to it. McKenzie runs away from home and meets up with Newt in Phoenix to try and find answers. When they see each other face to face, she gets that eerie déjà vu feeling that they have met before. They are on their way to what they think are answers in the Phoenix desert when tragedy strikes.

What follows is a literal shift in the sands of the narrative that is simply brilliant and brings the second half together into one cohesive tale. The family is now unified with limited chances remaining to fulfill their goals. New groups are posing constant threats, making this epic journey as intense as it has ever been.

Mo Hayder dedicates THE BOOK OF SAND, and the series, to all who have been affected by Motor Neurone Disease. Regrettably, she was diagnosed with the disease in December 2020 and passed away in July 2021. As a huge fan of her work, I cannot express what a monumental loss this is to the literary world. Hayder had completed the first drafts of three more books in the series prior to her death. I can only hope that her publisher will find someone to carry on this inventive, beautiful and thrilling project.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 22, 2022

The Book of Sand
by Mo Hayder, writing as Theo Clare

  • Publication Date: July 18, 2023
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 577 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • ISBN-13: 9798212174909