Retired teacher R J Barron, who is originally from Teesside, steps centre stage into the world of YA fantasy fiction with the release of his new novel, The Watcher and The Friend.

The book switches between the contemporary world of Runswick Bay, a picturesque fishing village on the North Yorkshire Coast, and the same area in the strange parallel world of Yngerlande in 1795.

The Watcher and The Friend tells the story of Thomas Trelawney, a thirteen-year-old boy who is struggling to cope with the death of his older sister, Grace. While on a family holiday one snowy Christmas, Thomas and his cousin Dan find themselves drawn into a struggle to save the diverse and tolerant world of Yngerlande from a brutal uprising. Their race against time ends dramatically in the Royal Assembly Rooms in York on Christmas Eve, as Thomas, using powers he never knew he possessed, plays a leading role in the struggle. Through this, and the powerful connection he has with the mysterious Clara, the girl with stars streaming from her hair, he can finally move on from the tragedy of his sister’s death.

The novel deals with big ideas of diversity, equality, grief, love and friendship, addressing them through a gripping adventure story, powerfully evocative settings and strong, memorable characters. 

R J Barron says, “I wanted to deal with some of the big issues in our own world today, issues that have particular interest to young people who are concerned about the world they are growing up in. Black Lives Matter, Freedom, Equality, Fairness and Diversity are all themes that young people are passionate about and which have caused some controversy with people who prefer the world the way it is. I was particularly concerned that the progress that has been made on some of these issues has been put under extreme threat in our own society recently. The Watcher and The Friend is a way of exploring that by setting the same ideas in a parallel world. But first and foremost, I wanted to write an exciting adventure story with characters that readers can relate to and care about, and characters and relationships that will develop over time.”

The Watcher and The Friend is the first novel in a series of five.

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