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Pan Macmillan

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Justin Germishuys’ The Discoveries of Wispish Wins the 2010 Citizen Book Prize

Citizen Book Prize 2010 Winner

Citizen Book PrizePan Macmillan and CitiVibe are delighted to announce the winner of this year’s Citizen Book Prize, held for teen-fiction manuscripts: Justin Germishuys, for his synopsis on his manuscript, The Discoveries of Wispish.

Justin is a 27-year-old bookseller at Exclusive Books Woodlands. His favourite authors are PG Wodehouse and John Steinbeck. Justin says, “I have enjoyed creating things. Sculpting, drawing, inventing amazing contraptions that don’t work, I’ve done them all, but writing is by far my favourite, because in writing everything that I imagine exists. Even dragons.”

He receives R10 000 from The Citizen, and review of his manuscript, with the possibility of publication, by Macmillan South Africa. Congratulations to Justin!

The runner-up this year was Nic Zav for The Altar of the Spirit Thief. Here are the two synopses:

The Discoveries of Wispish by Justin Germishuys

For five hundred years, a family of four dragons has been living in exile in an underground system of caves.

Manvreet, his mate Doris, their son Lester, and Grandpa are all sitting around a rock table when Doris calls Manvreet aside to express her concerns that cave life is stifling Lester’s development. She asks Manvreet to consider returning to the topside world. Manvreet agrees to think about it, but he is afraid of the unknown dangers outside.

The next morning, Manvreet saves an unusual human named William Wispish from drowning in the underground river. William is possibly the only survivor of a team of four cave explorers. Manvreet realises he can find out more about the outside world from this man. So, to Doris’s annoyance, Manvreet decides, in the hopes of establishing a bond and getting information, to take William on a tour of the caves. Lester begs to go along, but when Manvreet denies him, he storms off on his own, blaming William.

On the tour, The Chariot, a box carried by rats, breaks down alongside the underground river. After William has a near-death experience with a catfish, the two males have a snack and William tells Manvreet how the world has changed. Suddenly, a dire rat attacks William, but just before it’s too late, Manvreet rescues him.

That night, a wounded William joins the dragons, excluding Lester, at the Main Chamber for a dinner of dire rats. There he learns some of the story behind the dragons’ exile. He also finds out that, in the morning, because of his wound, he will be staying alone with Doris, who hates him, while Manvreet attends to some chores.

Being alone with Doris is scary, which results in William’s needing to use the dragon’s very large toilet. William almost falls in, but Doris catches him, after which their relationship improves so much that Doris confides in him about her relationship problems with Manvreet. William decides to intervene with cosmetology and dance. The couple reconcile and decide they need time alone, so they cunningly convince Grandpa to take William to the tannery.

During the tannery adventure, William endears himself to the gruff and grouchy Grandpa, loses three priceless jewels, finds evidence that his teammates could still be alive and, most importantly, makes leather pants to replace his pair that was torn when he was attacked by the dire rat.

Later, when everyone is asleep, Lester tries to abduct William but fails. Manvreet insists they go looking for Lester to get an explanation. To William’s surprise, Manvreet abandons him in the middle of nowhere, and Lester finally captures him and takes him to his den. There, William finds Maggie, his teammate, very much alive in Lester’s care.

Manvreet, who secretly followed Lester to his den, eavesdrops and hears Lester explain to William how he doesn’t want to leave the caves. To decide finally if they should stay or go, Manvreet challenges Lester to a showdown. Manvreet wins. They have to leave.

~ ~ ~

The Altar of the Spirit Thief by Nico Zaverdinos

Deep in the heart of Zululand, Sarah Stevenson stumbles across a diamond embedded in a mysterious cave, and thinks she has found the answer to all her problems. But instead she and Bongani Ndladla, who that very same night is orphaned in a freakish attack and with whom she shares a strange magic, are drawn into an age-old and bitter war.

Pursued by a mysterious shape-shifting man who is able to transfigure ordinary people into homicidal zombie-like ghouls, the two teens flee to a ramshackle hotel near Greytown. There they find themselves in the midst of an eccentric group of people calling themselves the Children of Orford. The leader of this motley gang, the amiable Baba Ali, tells them the ancient story of the war being waged, and the part that Bongani and Sarah are to play in it. And he teaches them how to unlock the magic lurking in their bloodlines, while they in turn discover another phenomenon – they literally share each other’s dreams.

But can these people be trusted? Sarah has misgivings and decides they must leave. She drags Bongani off into the night and into immediate danger. They are attacked by a gruesome swarm of tokoloshes, controlled by their erstwhile shape-shifting adversary. Fortunately, Ali and his friends catch wind of the attack and Bongani and Sarah are rescued, and afforded the chance to test their new magic abilities.
Bongani and Sarah are moved to Durban, where they meet up with an expert on the mystery magic, Ignatius Chinsammy – a veteran of the ancient war, now forever fettered to a wheelchair. Ignatius has discovered that the Children of Orford’s mortal enemy is set to uncover an artefact that will grant them absolute supremacy in the war. He sends our two heroes to retrieve it, but they fail in their quest and in the process Sarah realises that her birthright – unlike the pureblood Bongani – is that of the enemy they have been fighting – she is a child of the people she has come to hate. Fleeing her fate, she again places Bongani in peril and it is only through the quick thinking of Ignatius that he is saved.

Danger pursues them southwards and Sarah discovers first-hand how terrifying a perversely possessed mob can be. They are rescued from sure death by a kindly but bumbling police officer – another warrior in the primeval war – who takes them to a farm in Underberg. It is here that they meet the oracle Ouma Shipton, a woman who pervades their shared dreamscape. But battle soon looms and the two are whisked away to the Wild Coast for a final showdown with their adversaries.

In an almighty contest between these two factions, Sarah reconciles herself to the fact that she carries within her the blood of the enemy, and Bongani learns his true destiny. Our heroes fight for their lives to conquer all the terrors that have pursued them across the country. Except one … the shape-shifter is still on their trail.


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