♥Welsh BOM, August 2023♥
(suggested) reading age: 9-13
(suggested) interest age: 8+
Twm is a thief, a cheat and a bully. But something is missing in his life and he doesn't know why. One dark night, when Twm is out thieving, he comes face to face with his fate ... and discovers a shocking truth that changes his life for ever.
I'm familiar with the author's previous work from my time on the Tir na n-Og panel, where Sioned Wyn Roberts came out on top with a great debut novel, Gwag y Nos. That book was so good, her second novel was going to get a read by default! I've included a screenshot of the first page of Gwag t Nos to show how effective the writing was from the get go. The author starts the second novel with something similar as well.
To make it clear, Wyneb yn Wyneb (face to face) isn’t a sequel, but it does exist in the same universe as Gwag y Nos, so a few characters or locations will be familiar.
Wyneb yn Wyneb starts in the same place, in the workhouse of Gwag y Nos – hell on earth if you recall, where the awful Nyrs Jenat and the cruel Robat Wyllt reign over the unfortunate children. Whilst Jenat was the antagonist last time round, this time it’s Robat Wyllt who’s causing problems as he rules through intimidation and violence.
The novel begins with the main character, Twm, explaining how he’s become Robat’s little lapdog. He’s been in his head, and over time, has turned him into a loyal little stooge. Being Robat’s little minion has afforded him some protection and status, but the price has been a heavy one to pay. Twm has turned into a bully himself. He hasn’t a friend in the world, and more than anything he hates himself for it.
Whilst we come to learn that Twm, over time and due to Robat’s influence, has turned into someone rather unpleasant, my feeling is that this backstory is somewhat rushed. I would have found this more authentic had we seen a bit more of this and how he interacted with some of the others.
After being sent by his ‘boss’ to a local mansion to steal precious jewels, Twm's life is forever changed as he comes up close and personal with a familiar (yet unfamiliar) face. I'll say no more.
Having just learned that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and that his life has been one big lie, Twm & co decide to escape and go on the run. Not sure how believable that is considering how quickly it all happened? Anyway, roll with it, because their daring escape lays the basis for a perilous adventure that takes them far from Pwllheli, all the way to docks of Liverpool. Out of the frying pan...
Remember, you don't need to read the other book to enjoy Wyneb yn Wyneb, as it effectively works on its own. I'm being honest I didn't enjoy this novel quite as much as the last one; it just didn’t make the same impact on me. However, it was good to return to Gwag y Nos once again. I was strongly reminded of the English classic, Street Child by Berlie Doherty, while reading the book. I'm sure the main character ran away in there too.
Sioned’s writing style is unique – easy to read, colloquial and natural, making use of short, punchy sentences. (we don’t need overly long sentences do we? Just get to the point innit!) The language can be quite blunt/hard-hitting at times, which works well.
With one Tir na n-Og Award under her belt, Sioned Roberts has proved herself to be adept at writing an adventure story. Is there more to say in the Gwag y Nos world I wonder? Could this be a trilogy? I wouldn’t be surprised that Robat Wyllt will be looking for his revenge after the events of this novel…