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Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Blog Tour Review - Service Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky To fix the world they first must break it further. Humanity is a dying breed, utterly reliant on artificial labor and service. When a domesticated robot gets a nasty little idea downloaded into their core programming, they murder their owner. The robot then discovers they can also do something else they never did before: run away. After fleeing the household, they enter a wider world they never knew existed, where the age-old hierarchy of humans at the top is disintegrating, and a robot ecosystem devoted to human wellbeing is finding a new purpose. There is so much to love in Service Model, but one of the things I most love about it is the peculiar blend of charming innocence and insightful cynicism. Uncharles the domestic robot is such a simple soul (though he would state that he has no soul and this is an inaccurate description). He approaches the end of the world with optimism and hope, or whatever equivalent to these emotions h

Blog Tour Review - Norah's Ark by Victoria Williamson

 Blog Tour Review - Norah's Ark by Victoria Williamson

Norah Day lives in temporary accommodation, relies on foodbanks for dinner, and doesn’t have a mum. But she’s happy enough, as she has a dad and a mini zoo of rescued wildlife to care for.

Adam Sinclair lives with his parents in a nice house with a private tutor and everything he could ever want. But his life isn’t perfect – far from it. He’s stuck at home recovering from cancer with an overprotective mum and no friends.

When a nest of baby birds brings them together as an animal rescue team, Adam and Norah discover they’re not so different after all. Can they solve the mystery of Norah’s missing mother together? And can their teamwork save their zoo of rescued animals from the rising flood?

Norah's Ark is a very hard book to read. It's beautiful and it's very accessible, so it's not that. It just deals with some very difficult subject matters that make it an incredibly moving, powerful story. Like all of Victoria's work, it's filled with empathy and everything is dealt with in a caring, sympathetic way and I highly, highly recommend it. 

I think what made it so powerful for me is that one of the central themes of the story is helplessness. The world is a scary, often overwhelming place and at times it can really feel like we're helpless to change what is happening to us. 

For Norah, she feels helpless with her living situation, forced to move on from temporary accommodation to temporary accommodation without ever really having anywhere to call home. She feels helpless at school, struggling to keep up in lessons and at the mercy (or lack thereof) of the local bullies. She feels helpless with her dad, very aware of many of the problems he is facing but not able to do anything to alleviate them other than struggling along with him, and hiding her own problems from him, lying about the bullies, pretending she's not hungry when there's not enough food to go around, and doing her best to smile through the bad times they share.

Adam is in a very different situation to Norah. He has food and a nice home and both parents around, but he too feels helpless. He's recovering from cancer and his mother is keeping him trapped in the house for his own safety. He's being kept away from school and from friends, from swimming and from the park and although he keeps trying, he feels like there's nothing he can do to change his mother's mind. 

It extends beyond this though. The adults in the story also experience similar feelings of helplessness. Norah's dad keeps trying his best, but the world is not set up to help people like him. Jobs are zero-hours and don't last long, housing is basic and temporary, and the benefits people seem to be constantly sabotaging his best efforts and giving him less money than he expects and needs. I really felt so deeply for him and for Norah, trapped in an uncaring system they just can't get out of. It was truly heartbreaking to see. And throughout it all there's this threat of social services coming to separate them, something neither of them could accept, something they both fear. 

For Adam's parents, the circumstances acting against them don't come from the government, but it's just as painful to watch a parent terrified of losing their child, to read about them sitting by his bedside when he is in hospital, powerless to do anything to intervene, and then to have him him, seemingly cured but to still be beset by these fears that something else can come along and take him away. Adam's mother comes across at times as overly fearful or as controlling, but it's clear to see how strongly she's driven by love and fear.

It sounds really bleak, but it's also a book driven by hope and optimism. I loved Norah and Adam both making lists of what they want in life, and how simple, how basic those wishes were in both cases, and despite their very different circumstances, how similar their lists were. Everything seems to work against them, but they never give up, and that's really lovely.

One strong message to come out of the book is that the answer to feeling utterly helpless in our own lives is to help others. The story is initially driven by both Adam and Norah trying to help some abandoned robin chicks, and as it progresses we see how much joy and comfort they can find in doing what they can to help people and creatures who need them, no matter how much they themselves need helping.

Norah's Ark is emotional and heartbreaking at times, but ultimately a gorgeously optimistic book.


Norah's Ark by Victoria Williamson is out on 29th August 2023 from Neem Tree Press.

I was given a review copy in return for an honest review and participation in this The Write Reads blog tour.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour!


  1. You have pinpointed the theme of helplessness so well.

  2. I really love this review because it perfectly caught the word that was nagging at the back of my mind when reading the book - helplessness. I'm glad you found the book so moving!


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