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This was an incredibly tightly-paced page-turner of a story. Havoc is the sequel to Jane Higgins’ Text Prize-winning YA book The Bridge (Text, 2012). Do read The Bridge before beginning this book, as while I had done so back in 2012, I did find it hard to jump right into the action with no full redux of the important relationships, political and personal, from the previous book.
Havoc is based, as The Bridge was, in a city torn apart by factions that are warring across racial and economic lines. The Citysiders and the Breken are the two sides, and our protagonist Nikolai Stais is the only son of the chief spy for the Breken group, a fact he only really became aware of during the adventures of the previous book. As the book opens, a ceasefire is holding briefly, which is soon shattered by Cityside launching a missile, which kills tens of Breken and re-ignites antagonism. In the aftermath of the missile, which destroys one of the bridges to Southside, Nik finds a girl who doesn’t speak Anglo or Breken, and saves her from being buried beneath rubble. She is muttering something about ‘havoc’. Soon after the missile, Cityside surrounds the Southside suburb of Moldam with barbed wire.
Nik and his (more than a) friend Lanya are dispatched to the City to try and raise the faction over there that supports the Breken’s equal rights; a group called One City. The two work with a slippery character called Sandor to get across the river, and Nik’s education on Cityside works in his favour for awhile, but the limits of his relationship with everybody close to him are tested sorely in the course of resolution.
I kept picking this book up and thinking ‘I’ll just read one chapter’, and finishing five chapters down, needing to go to sleep. It is a well-plotted, and extremely tightly written post-catastrophe story, perfect for anybody who loved Mandy Hager’s Blood of the Lamb trilogy, or Fleur Beale’s Juno of Taris trilogy.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Jane Higgins
Published by Text Publishing