Penguin Random House Children’s has signed a "gripping, ambitious and extraordinarily atmospheric" middle grade novel by Scottish author Struan Murray for six figures.
Fiction publisher Ben Horslen made a pre-emptive offer less than 24 hours after the manuscript was submitted, and agreed a two-book, six-figure deal for World rights with Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown.
Orphans of the Tide follows 13-year-old Ellie who is living in the heart of a half-submerged city, in a ramshackle workshop overflowing with curiosities. The world in which she lives is haunted by an ancient evil called The Enemy that, once every generation, takes possession of a human body as its Vessel.
Ellie’s role is to fix things and solve problems, but when the arrival of a mysterious boy arouses the suspicions of the Inquisition, she finds herself facing an enigma she can’t fathom. Ellie is certain that the boy is innocent – but who is he, can she protect him, and how might he be linked to the dark secret she is harbouring herself?
Orphans of the Tide is an "exceptionally confident debut populated by characters that stay in the mind and heart long after the final page that will appeal to readers of The Girl of Ink and Stars and The Explorer, as well as fans of Philip Pullman", said the publisher.
Murray said: "It’s a tremendous honour to join the list at Puffin, and I can’t wait to start working with Ben to develop Ellie’s story. I’m very grateful for the enthusiasm and support of my agent, Stephanie Thwaites, during the process."
Horslen said: "I opened the manuscript at 10.30 at night and by the time I turned the last page at a quarter to three, I knew I had to publish it. Ellie is such an engaging main character – independent, big-hearted and resourceful – and the world she inhabits so vividly drawn, I lost myself to the story entirely. The writing stacks up against the very best in the market and treads the line between classic and commercial perfectly. I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Struan to Puffin."
Thwaites said: "This is a truly exceptional book and the speed at which it was snapped up by Puffin was a testament to that. Struan is incredibly talented and we’re so excited to be working with Ben and the team at Puffin to launch his writing career and share this special story with the world."
The novel will be published as a Puffin paperback original in Spring 2020.