(Credit: John Marsden)

I’ve spent a lot of time sick in bed this month.  Given I was sick, I decided to forget how expensive the sequels to Tomorrow when the War Began are (over $13 for each very short novel) and bought all six of the books I had not yet read. I managed to spend a $100 Amazon gift card in a matter of days, but don’t tell my husband that.

The Dead of the Night picks up where Tomorrow when the War Began ended — the children pick targets to attack. They start small and work their way up to larger, more ambitious goals. Despite how central some of the infrastructure is they destroy, the way the attacks are explained, it never feels unrealistic. The main character, Ellie, is always frightened, no matter how many operations they do. And some of the children are braver than others.

I think another part of why these books are so believable is that Marsden isn’t afraid to have his characters chicken out, ask for help or even get caught. Part of me was disappointed when the children are suddenly caught in The Third Day the Frost, but I realised later that they couldn’t keep escaping or the books would lose their grit.  Getting caught also allowed Marsden to write particularly poignant prison scenes as Ellie and Homer receive death sentences and consider the end.

Luckily, rescue comes out of an unexpected quarter, although not without casualties on the children’s side. Soon enough, the children are back where they started, conducting sabotage, despite having the option to stay safe in New Zealand. I love the action and I loved the characters (When I didn’t hate them, that is. They felt like real world people, after all.)

However, possibly the best thing about the series is how it ends. It’s not a Hollywood happy ever after — in this situation, where a large force from the region attacks Australia and takes control, I can’t imagine that it would be. Marsden doesn’t pretend that the invaders would just disappear, with mini nations New Zealand and Australia suddenly sweeping them from the country in a decisive victory. No, Marsden’s finale is much more realistic.

I finished the series only a few days before Australia Day this year, which is the day on which the invasion occurs in the first book. The books had affected me so deeply that I was uneasy the whole day, especially when our fighter jets flew overhead. I thought about the books in the supermarket when I bought my vegetables, considering what I would eat if the shops were no longer open. I thought about the books when I was in the shower, asking myself whether my Glebe flat would be spared if there was widespread bombing in the centre of Sydney. The way the books lingered in my mind shows how good they really are. If you haven’t read them yet, I would recommend them. I’m going to give this series a 5/5.

Now I just have to decide if I want to shell out for the following series which plays after the war. The jury’s still out on that.

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