by L P Hansen. Published by Onepoto Press, 2021. Reviewed by Catharina van Bohemen
New Zealander L P Hansen’s writes about “real kids in real adventures” which include current universal crises such as bullying, climate change and consumerism. The Dark Quest of Countess X, her fourth novel, summons the world’s youth to help our “missing women”. This phrase was first used in 1990 by economist-philosopher Amartya Sen who observed that in parts of the world – particularly China and India – the ratio of women to men was suspiciously low. He estimated that there were 100,000,000 vanished women; by 2015 researchers suggested the number had risen to more than 200,000,000.
The Dark Quest is a heart-warming tale about teenagers from many countries, including Aotearoa, who fly to Lichtenstein to present their research and strategies to help today’s oppressed, or invisible, women and girls to the benevolent Countess X in her fairy-tale chateau. Themes such as the value of collaboration, a reappraisal of world mythologies, history and culture, and the joy of learning – books and the internet – underpin the thrills of the quest.
The story’s easy style and pace, its likeable lightly-sketched characters, and its helpful links to websites and organisations on this contemporary global horror, make The Dark Quest an inviting springboard for research in our schools.