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About the book
  • Published: 7 May 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143773122
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $29.99

A Place of Stone and Darkness

'At last a fantasy novel with some depth . . . One of the best of the year' - Bob's Book Blog

'This is one of my top reads of 2019' - Goodreads, School Librarians

The amazing, mysterious realm of Striggworld can finally be revealed.

When the human creatures appeared, they ravaged the forests and hunted many birds to extinction. The flightless Striggs had only one option:

They went down, down under the ground . . . And it’s there, as you may have heard it whispered, that they still remain. Far below, in a place of stone and darkness . . .

Over thousands of years, they colonised a labyrinth of tunnels and caves, but even underground the Striggs are not safe: chemicals now pollute their water and a deadly sickness threatens the flock.

Even worse: an inquisitive young Strigg called Ellee Meddo discovers a human boy, trapped deep in a well. Humans are to be feared and saving him could mean travelling to the surface, a place of untold peril. What will Ellee decide to do?

Are you brave enough to follow Ellee into the darkness?

  • Pub date: 7 May 2019
  • ISBN: 9780143773122
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $29.99

About the Author

Chris Mousdale

Chris Mousdale was born in the summer of 1964, Liverpool, England. After leaving school he studied Art and Design at Liverpool Polytechnic and Painting at Canterbury College of Art, Kent. In London, during the 1980s, he sidestepped into the book trade, selling science and medical texts at H.K. Lewis and Co in Euston, then Art titles for Waterstones’ Richmond branch.

On moving to New Zealand in 1990 he began working as a freelance illustrator and designer. His illustrations have been published in many New Zealand journals and magazines including the Listener, theNew Zealand Herald, Metro Magazine and the Sunday Star-Times, as well as featuring on book covers for Random House and Penguin. In 2010 Chris was commissioned by Music Matters Ltd to create a series of LP sleeves for the American jazz label Blue Note.

Alongside his freelance career he also taught and spent seventeen years as a University lecturer. His paintings and constructions have been seen in a number of gallery exhibitions and he has curated shows of 1960s modernist Brazilian record covers and New Zealand Pop and Rock music graphics.

In 2001 he was awarded the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award’s top prize for his illustrations in Joy Cowley’s Brodie.

Chris lives in Auckland with his partner Jan. A Place of Stone and Darkness is his first novel.

Praise for A Place of Stone and Darkness

“A Place of Stone and Darkness is a dystopian story like no other, filled with heart-stopping action and characters that you don’t want to say goodbye to. Chris Mousdale has created a world that drew me in and I got completely wrapped up in. Chris teases you with little details of the Strigg civilisation and their history which just makes you keep reading so you’ll find out how all those pieces fit together. The ending was absolutely perfect as it finishes the story but leaves you wondering what might happen next. Not only is the story itself a fantastic read but the production of the book is also stunning. Chris Mousdale has also illustrated the book so his coloured plates add an extra layer to the story. The end papers are maps of Striggworld and there are other maps and diagrams throughout the story. At the start of the book there are also small illustrations of the different characters. I really love these little production touches as you can tell it is going to be a special book even before you start reading. I think what really made the story stand out for me is the characters. Chris has created some very memorable characters, who you care more and more about as the story progresses. You want them all to survive their journey. . . . perfect for readers 10 years and up. Children who love fantasy and futuristic stories or a really good adventure story will devour this book. It would make a great read aloud for Years 6-9 as the story will keep kids hooked and there are lots of good places to stop, leaving some suspense for next time. This is one of my top reads of 2019 and I know it will be on my mind for a long time.”

Zac, Goodreads: NZ Intermediate School Librarians

“At last a fantasy novel with some depth. Deep not because it is set almost totally underground but because it has a lot of significant observations about the Human condition, and it is a very good tale. . . . If there is a catchphrase that describes this novel it is “It is amazing what eventually ends up underground”. We should take heed of that. It says a lot about the Human condition of treating the Planet and every other creature on it as if it is ours alone to use. The Striggs know all about us and our destructive ways. Excellent story, descriptively written and with a message for all Humankind. Chris Mousdale creates an imaginative World that is totally believable, the Striggs are believable The Strigg way contrasts with that of Humans and puts us to shame. And his illustrations are superb. One of the best of the year. Suitable for Intermediate and High school readers.”

Bob Docherty, Bobs Book Blog

“Chris Mousdale’s book A place of Stone and Darkness had me hooked right from the start. It is a stylishly produced hardback novel which crosses a mix of genres. There is fantasy, adventure and mystery all in a wonderfully imagined, dystopian underground world. Chris Mousdale also illustrates the book and includes maps of the Striggs world, a glossary of their language, and character portraits, as well as a number of gorgeous earthy illustrations. . . . The action is fast paced, even nail-bitingly at times, so that it was very hard to put the book down. I just wanted to keep reading. . . I loved this novel for so many reasons. The fast-paced action, its total believability, its warmth, the friendships, the loyalties and even the subtle messages. Yes, there are messages about our environment, trust, human kindness and taking risks. This is a wonderful read and one that I predict will go far. Great for older readers and with its buff coloured pages is ideal for children with dyslexia. Loved it!”


“Not many junior fiction books are published in hardback in New Zealand. When you see one - you know it is going to be something special. And A Place of Stone and Darkness certainly is. From its stunning cover, full page illustrations, good quality paper and a unique world of its own. The main character is unlike any other creature you'll have met in a story before, too. . . . Will appeal to readers of dystopian worlds, fantasy, survival stories, adventure and mysteries. The world is fully developed but because it is unlike most other worlds created, the author has cleverly complemented the story with detailed colour illustrations throughout the book, including fantastic maps. The characters are believable and likeable. You care what happens to them and hope they survive and solve the problems. It's heart-stopping action that will force readers to keep reading into the night. An excellent class read aloud for Years 6 to 8. I predict this book will become a classic. I hope it is a series - I want to read more, as will many young people. . . Highly recommended for boys and girls from 8-14 years old.”

Maria Gill, KidsBooksNZ

“In A Place of Stone and Darkness, Chris Mousdale has created not one but two worlds, each with their own unique civilisation, language, customs and technology. Already an award-winning illustrator, Mousdale now demonstrates his skill as a storyteller by describing the consequences of these two races encountering (or rather re-encountering) each other. Surprisingly the first dramatic meeting takes place underground. . . . A high level of imagination has gone into creating the Strigg world, complete with its customs, ceremonies, religious observances, songs and mythology. Their language and figures of speech are skilfully created, so that they make perfect sense. . . . Well designed and beautifully presented, A Place of Stone and Darkness is a strikingly fresh and enjoyable novel, unpredictable and constantly surprising.”

Trevor Agnew, Agnew Reading

“AMAZING NZ Fiction! Instant 5 stars - would give higher if possible. . . This is an extraordinary story. It begins as soon as you open the beautifully bound hardback cover. . . The world building is fabulous, just adding even more to this fantastic read!”

WhatBookNext, Goodreads.com

“The world-building in this book is extraordinary. Mousdale not only wrote the story but he created all the illustrations as well, including some maps . . . for some reason, this reminded me of The Hobbit – with cute and quirky made-up beings with their own history and language, and the underlying human themes of love, friendship and hope.”

Steph Matuku, The Sapling

“It's a pretty amazing book, I have to say, right up there with Harry Potter and Philip Pullman . . . really impressed with the writing style . . . it's fast paced, catchy, great characters . . . It's really great . . . Totally recommend it.”

Scorpi Book Review

“Mousdale’s original imagining of creatures below the earth, in a time we hope never happens, is embellished with his whimsical vocabulary and engaging imagery. A great read for those who like their adventure to quicken their pulse with each turned page.”

Piper Mejia, https://akiwisbookreviews.wordpress.com/

“Written for young adults but also a good crossover novel, A Place of Stone and Darkness is a modern fable about good overcoming evil.”

Verve magazine

“A New Zealand debut author to discover and I will watch his rise to literary heights!”

Kapiti News

“Mousdale creates a visual world with rich language and illustrations which just draw you into the story and make this book one you definitely do not want to put down! The way the writing draws you in to feel real empathy for the characters and grow to love them is amazing. This is made even better by detailed illustrations and maps of Striggworld. My curiosity was grabbed in chapter one . . . If readers loved The Spiderwick Chronicles and worlds created by Emily Rodda, then you will love this. And I really want my next pet to be a Strigg! A Place of Stone and Darknesswill make you want to lose yourself in this amazing imaginative world of brave and outlandish characters. I could not put this book down! Extremely highly recommended. I read it twice!”

Angela Thompson, NZ Book Council

“A Place of Stone and Darkness is beautifully produced. An award-winning illustrator, Mousdale has crafted several stunning illustrations to accompany the hardbacked novel. The illustrated maps and diagrams of the Striggs’ underground land add an extra layer of realism to the world. Every character has a portrait, and readers will enjoy spotting their favourite characters in the coloured plates dispersed throughout the 400-page book. A helpful glossary of Strigg terms show how much work has gone into building the impressive land of the Striggs. A Place of Stone and Darkness is an engaging story, has brilliant characters, and shares messages about the environment, human kindness and trusting your friends. With similarities to The Hobbit, this novel is perfect for young readers (10+) who enjoy fantasy and steampunk adventures. The surprise ending takes the tale in an unexpected and exciting direction, and while the formal vocabulary of the Striggs does take some time to get used to, the world-building is incredible. I can guarantee that once you are wrapped up in Ellee and Sidfred’s adventure, you won’t be able to put this book down.”

Rosalie Elliffe, The Reader, Booksellers New Zealand

“This fantasy is beautifully presented—a sturdy hardback with endpaper maps of Striggworld, and other maps and illustrations throughout the book. . . . An exciting and thought-provoking read, particularly for 10-15-year-old fantasy fans.”

Crissi Blair, Magpies

Awards & Recognition

  • Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award

    Awarded • 2020 • Storylines Notable Book

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