Crown of Acorns

The Crown of Acorns 2010

Hodder Children’s Books
ISBN 0-34-097007-3


In an absorbing mystery thriller, a teenage girl with a past arrives in a city: new name, new identity, new foster family. She has chosen the city herself, and is fascinated by its harmony and beauty, but is clearly in fear of discovery. She is nursing a secret from her early childhood, a secret that produces new terrors for her the moment she fears her identity has been spotted.

I have always loved Bath. It is a beautiful city, circled by hills and with the secret hot springs at its heart. I go there a lot and of all the places in the city my favourite is the King’s Circus, a circular street of golden stone built by John Wood the Elder.

When I realised I wanted to set a story there I decided to try something different with it. Wood was fascinated by sacred geometry, the circle, the triangle, the symbols of the sun and moon. So I decided to make three stories- a triangle inside the circle of the book.

The first story is Bladud’s. He was the legendary king who became a leper and then was cured by discovering the hot springs. He founded the city. There are also tales of his making wings and trying to fly, a motif that runs through the book.

Then I wanted to write about Wood’s obsessive building of the Circus, but this was tricky. When I started my research I realised I was going to be hampered by trying to stick to the real life events of Wood’s life. So I got around this by fictionalizing him into Jonathan Forrest, and by making Zac, his assistant, tell the story, Zac is proud and angry- his father has lost their fortune and he has to work for a man he considers a common builder. His relationship with Forrest is tense and he only gradually comes to understand his master.

The modern section of the book concerns a girl with no name who comes to live in the Circus with two rather ditsy foster parents. She calls herself Sulis and has something pretty terrible in her past. And soon she realises that somebody is watching her and that they know who she is. It was interesting to flit from story to story. I was half tempted to make the characters aware of each other but finally decided to have echoes and images that resound, a bit like noises and shadows do in the space of the Circus. I have to say it was a challenging book to write but I enjoyed doing something so different from Incarceron which is so very big. This is rather like three miniatures or a triptych. And I hope if you enjoy it, you will visit the places in it. They’re all real.