I had the profound honour of writing Chapter 45 and contributing, in my own small way, to the inspiring legacy of collaboration created by SchoolsCompared.com and WhichSchoolAdvisor.com.
This chapter has been written from Charlotte’s perspective. This shift in perspective serves the purpose of giving us a glimpse into Charlotte’s thoughts and especially the genuine concern and love that she has for Neina.
The chapter opens with Charlotte pacing the hospital corridor. We get to know that Neina has been lying there in a medically induced coma for the past 12 hours. The chapter then rewinds to the preceding events which resulted in Neina's hospitalisation. Charlotte was in her office when she heard sounds of approaching sirens. She looked out of the office window to spot a woman lying face down on the pavement. She raced down only to find that her worst nightmare had come true. It was indeed Neina who lay there motionless. Charlotte is joined by a visibly shaken Frankie and they watch together as Neina is whisked away in the ambulance.
Upon police investigation, we find out that Neina had hailed a taxi and she sat there without uttering a word, despite the taxi driver asking her where she would like to go. Then, without warning, she had punched through the window glass, thrown the door open and plunged to the pavement. Moments leading to this incident are also captured by different CCTV cameras which show Neina, all alone and lost in her thoughts, walking out to the taxi. It is also established that the threats written on the cards that Neina has been receiving had been written by Neina herself.
Neina’s doctor stresses that she will need dedicated treatment. Both Charlotte and Frankie pledge their support for Neina. The chapter ends with Charlotte saying that she will justify the trust that Neina has in her by "protecting her against what has always been her best friend, but which now has now become her worst enemy - her own, brilliant, mind...”
What is clear to the readers by the end of this chapter is that Neina is not alone, which is a respite given the fact that for the past nine weeks, she has been heartbreakingly lonely.
Chapter 46 has been written by Francesca Chapman, Year 9 of Brighton College Al Ain. The chapter opens in the hospital room where Neina has been admitted.
Even though in a coma, Neina is conscious of the chaos happening around her and her mind is in a state of unrest and despondency -
“Her memories had deteriorated rapidly despite her mind and body battling with all their joint might to cling on to what she thought was normal. But what, exactly, is normal? Her bones ached in sadness whilst they suffered paralyzing decay. Whatever normal means, it is not this...”
These words capture the poignant reality of Neina’s life. Readers, at this point, will feel sad for this broken girl who has been to hell and back many times over. Everyone deserves happiness and peace. So does Neina.
As the chapter proceeds, the junior doctor and nurses are disturbed by the fact that Neina has been mumbling different names. They also find out that she carries ID cards bearing almost a dozen identities. They call the psychiatrist to the ward and tell him about this disturbing fact. The psychiatrist, Dr. Spang, recognizes Neina as one of his patients who is suffering from multiple personality disorder, and says that she needs to be kept confined so that she doesn’t harm herself.
Cydnee Howard, Year 13, of Dubai English Speaking College penned Chapter 47. The chapter opens with Neina dead. Believe it or not, this is how it happened:
“While Janus, disguised as Dr. Spang, distracted the ward with the warnings of a schizophrenic, Isla had ducked into the room and suffocated the helpless mortal”.
The medical staff tried to revive Neina but in vain because “after all, nothing could beat magic.”
While I appreciate the writer’s intention do something “radical and different”, it was imperative that it sounded convincing. Killing Neina off in one single paragraph does not do justice to her character. Here is a character around whom the story has revolved for 10 weeks, a character developed over 45 chapters and described with words like “girl made of the stars” and “a fighter”. Granted that protagonists being killed off in literary works is not unprecedented or unheard of, but that death has to sound credible, logical and consequential enough to readers who have invested in that character. There needs to be some tension building up to her death, and a proper closure.
Moving on, Isla transits to the Mors world where she meets Queen Orla (a newly introduced character) and informs her that Neina is dead and the Prophecy Tower was doomed. She also tells the queen that the blueprints of the Prophecy Tower have been procured from Neina’s office and are currently in the Mors World library.
Isla decides to have a look at the blueprint herself and is shocked to read words written by Neina which emphatically state that this tall tower holds the key to dethroning the evil queen, and if the queen gets hold of the Prophecy Tower plans, the world will fall to chaos. What is clear now is that Queen Orla is the antagonist of the story and her objective is that the Prophecy Tower is not built since it will knell her downfall.
Kristian Maglantay, Year 10, Hartland International School takes over for Chapter 48. We see that Isla is completely mortified to know Queen Orla’s sinister intentions.
This chapter gives a new trajectory to Isla’s character as we get a glimpse into her past. She thinks of her mother “who was a pillar of stability inside her head.” We can draw a parallel between Isla and Neina here. We know that Isla’s mother occupies a pivotal place in her life just as Neina’s mother does in hers. Isla yearns for her past life just the way Neina always yearned for hers.
“She would trade anything in the world, now, for the mundane life that she had then with her loving mother. Those years were the happiest she had ever been.”
We get to know that Isla’s mother was killed by Queen Orla who goes on to take Isla with her because she was “special”. Despite the fact that Isla follows all of the Queen’s orders, she has a deep resentment for her, and she is consumed by the “sorrow of losing her mother in every action, every moment.”
The chapter ends with Isla’s thoughts being interrupted by someone calling out her name.
Chapter 49 sees Polina Chirkova, Year 9, of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi at the helm. Picking up the threads right from the point where Chapter 48 ended, we see Isla turning to see that it is Queen Orla standing behind her. Queen Orla tells her to busy herself with some work instead of just “lounging around.” Dismissing Isla, Queen Orla takes the blueprint of the Prophecy Tower with her.
Isla’s mind is anguished by the newly revealed truth and she calls out to Janus to share her inner turmoil. Both Isla and Janus feverishly think of a solution to stop the world meeting a horrendous end. They come to realise that Neina was indeed the one who held all the solutions; she was the one "predestined" to fulfil the “prophecy”.
“Now Isla could trace the outlines of Neina’s boldness to understand her inner power. Neina was able to fight the illusions of the Mors World, travel between the two realms and stay alive. Neina’s willingness to take risks and act innovatively could be enough to rebel against the Queen.”
The scene shifts to the hospital. We get to know that Charlotte is an accomplice of Isla and after getting to know of the Queen’s real intentions, she revives Neina.
While Chapter 47 was successful in introducing Queen Orla who holds the promise of being a potent antagonist, but it didn't have to come at the cost of killing the protagonist. Thank you Polina! You not only revived Neina, you also revived the interest in the story. Another observation: The fact that as readers, Neina’s death was a blow to us and her revival is a welcome relief, is testimony to the fact that all the authors in the past chapters have been able to create a memorable protagonist.
As an onslaught of memories race through Neina’s mind, she thinks of the simple, uncomplicated life she had and what it has turned into. But together with sadness and despair, the memories of all that she has been through in the recent days bring along a new resolve in Neina- she knew that “it was time to take control”.
The chapter ends with Isla appearing through a portal and telling Neina:
“I know what you must be thinking, but we need your help.”
This week has firmly established Neina as the undisputed protagonist of this novel. We also see the evolution of the characters of Charlotte and Isla. They can now be Neina's allies and be a part of her journey of fulfilling the prophecy. The "prophecy" is, in fact, the Prophecy Tower. It is apparent now that that Queen Orla, who is now the main antagonist of the novel, does not want to it to take a physical form. In the coming weeks, as a reader, I look forward to seeing how Neina will get back what rightfully belongs to her, the blueprint of the Prophecy Tower. There could also be a prospect of seeing the physical culmination of the tower, maybe even see a time leap in the story where we see the tower in all its glory.
Could the Prophecy Tower actually be a protective shield between Queen Orla and the world? What makes Neina the "chosen one" who is predestined to prevent the world falling into chaos and upheaval? In the previous chapters we've seen her fascination with faraway stars, her resilience and her ability to survive the cruelest of predicaments. So what is it that's so extraordinary in this seemingly ordinary girl?
I just can't wait for the coming chapters with the hope of Neina, "the girl made of the stars" finally taking charge of the situation and fulfilling the "prophecy".
Mishal Faraz, WSA Junior Journalist, Year 9, The Winchester School