Sunderland is no stranger to literature. Part of recognizing this city’s value and worth starts with acknowledging what it already has, including extremely talented local authors such as Glenda Young, or the influence it had on historical greats such as Lewis Caroll.
But never, up to this day, had a book been written which strives to place modern Sunderland at the centre of an epic fantasy story with a titular hero. On this premise, the upcoming “The North Star“, authored by Farringdon born author T.J Oswald, stands as an extraordinary debut work which carries the unconventional narrative of blending fantasy tropes into a very realist depiction of the city, its people and life.
The book tells the story of 17 year old girl Sophie Scott, living in troubled circumstances at home, who finds herself entangled on a journey to become a legendary Northumbrian hero of the book’s title, which is premised on the legacy of King Oswald, who ruled the north in the 7th century. In her journey, she is joined by her two friends, Micky and Millie, while facing off against a series of monsters known as Redcaps, inspired by frequent anti-social behaviour in the city.
On her journey, Sophie also faces a number of other challenges that reflect more on our contemporary world and introspect the issues Sunderland has faced, including a vicious gangster, an unsympathetic and suspicious Police Chief and a populist right-wing politician, all of which are masterfully blended into the emergence of an Anglo-Saxon rooted century evil known as Glanfeoil, the book’s main antagonist.
The story subsequently acts a metaphor for the decline and rebirth of Sunderland amidst its contemporary struggles, exploring themes such as disillusionment, industrial decline, hopelessness on the backdrop of hope, renaissance and rebirth. In doing so, the book deliberately thrusts itself into real world settings, with the sole exception of the Sixth form she attends (which is based on St. Anthony’s), be it Villette Road in Hendon, Southwick, Leechmere, Gilley Law or Thorney Close, the author wants to explore Sunderland in the “nitty gritty” and show it “as it is”, while nonetheless building its mythological setting and lore around the greatest gems of the North East, including the City of Durham, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island.
The North Star was first conceived in 2021, and gradually built upon over the past two years with a series of draft versions, some which were temporarily shown online. A screenplay was finished by early 2023, wherein a film development deal was signed with New Enterprise Studios (NES), in Southwick. The full novel was then completed thereafter, standing unedited at 270 pages (a similar size to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), with several publishing companies having made offers to produce it.
The book is likely to be available by the end of this year.