Book Reviews / Thursday, October 14th, 2021

By: Melanie Rees
Publisher: Hague Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Content Warning: Suicide

Petrichor is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil.

Petrichor is a beautiful book that packs in fantasy, family relationships, love, and loss. It has been years since it has rained and Clayton, a young boy, and his family are trying to make ends meet as crops will not grow and living on their ranch has become difficult. Clayton’s older brother, Davo, has passed away. Clayton loved and looked up Davo, and always remembers the good times they had. His father has become angry and withdrawn, and will not allow anyone to mention his brother’s name. Davo lived on a plot of the land that his family gave him, his home has been left untouched, and his father forbids anyone to go inside. Clayton remembers nothing about how his brother died, but he feels that when the rains come, everything will be better. One night a spirit, named Waringa, comes to Clayton in the form a fox. Waringa tells Clayton only he can make the rains come by battling the Red King and freeing the rain spirits.

What ensues is a dangerous journey that takes Clayton through the dry outback of the family ranch to battle the Red King, find, and free the rain spirits. He embarks on this journey alone. Although this is a short book at 128 pages, there are many layers to it. There is the fantasy of Waringa and the Red King, the relationship between Clayton and his family, his father’s withdrawal into himself, and, ultimately, love and healing.

The characters are very well developed. Ms. Reese perfectly captures Clayton’s sadness at what has father has become after the death of Davos. He tries to help, but he cannot penetrate the anger his father feels. Clayton desperately wants his family to be happy again, and will do anything to make the rain come. The rain will allow the crops to grow and everything will be back to normal. He’s young and doesn’t understand why his father won’t talk about Davo. He sees the world as a young boy would, and for him, the solution is simple. Clayton’s father’s grief and withdrawal is a sadness we all feel as we read the book. His mother can do nothing to help his father. She tries to keep everything calm by agreeing with him, and telling Clayton to do what his father says. Her helplessness comes across so well in the book.

The prose is beautifully written. We feel the despair when the rains do not come, the tension within the family, and Clayton trying to make things right-the way things were before Davo died. Clayton trying to remember how his brother died, not being able to talk about it, and grieving for a brother who, by his father’s actions, never existed:

“Clayton bit his tongue, trying to hold back the tears. He wound down the window, using it as an excuse to turn away and conceal his face, but as his dad drove the cattle grid onto the next paddock the shuddering of the ute dislodged a tear and it rolled down his cheek and onto his lap.” Melanie Reese, Petrichor

It was a moment of grief captured so beautifully. The grief and his family drive Clayton on his quest to free the rain spirits. He doesn’t know how to fight the Red King, he’s not sure where the rain spirits are, but he knows this is quest he must make. As he makes his way, the story unravels and the reader finds out more about Clayton, Davo and their father. What Clayton discovers is an amazing and brilliant conclusion. There are twists and turns that reader never expects.

Petrichor is a beautiful young adult fantasy that delves into fantasy, family interaction, love, loss and healing. It is a wonderful addition to the YA fantasy genre and I highly recommend it.

My thanks to Hague Publishing for an ARC to review.

Book Summary

Some things cannot be mended with baling twine.

Drought has turned the paddocks of Paddle Creek Station to dust. Now the death of Clayton’s older brother has shaken his family to its core and left a gaping hole in Clayton’s memory. A hole his parents won’t even discuss.

When Waringa, in the shape of a fox-spirit, tells Clayton it’s up to him to save his family and to free the rain spirits held prisoner by the demonic Red King, Clayton must find a strength within himself he never knew he possessed.

But as Waringa guides Clayton towards his ultimate battle with the Red King, his quest brings his whole family closer to the abandoned homestead where his brother died. And as it does Clayton’s actions uncover raw wounds, forcing hidden memories to surface.

About the Author

Melanie Rees has loved writing and reading speculative fiction for as long as she can remember, but started taking it seriously after a failed kidney transplant to help fill in the time and provide purpose while hooked up to dialysis machines. Since then she has published over 100 stories and poems in several anthologies by by Black Inc. and Simon & Schuster; and renowned magazines including Cosmos, Apex, Nature – Futures, and Aurealis.

She works as an environmental scientist, where she has spent a lot of time working on outback properties, wetlands, forests, and along the coast. When not playing in the dirt or stuck up a tree, she writes.

Petrichor was inspired by her time working with farmers in northern South Australia during the millennial drought and witnessing the malaise and heartache in both the community and landscapes. She wanted to capture that and address serious issues farmers were facing, but at the same time inject some “magic” into the story.

You can find Melanie and links to her other work online on Twitter, Facebook and at   

Offline she lives on the picturesque Fleurieu Peninsula on a bushland property, and lives in a strawbale house that she built with her husband.

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