Review: The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer

on Middle Grade
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The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer
Published by Pushkin Press
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I received a copy on Netgalley from the publisher.


How do you find your way out of the dark?

On her twelfth birthday, the last thing Cecilia expected was to find herself lost in a labyrinth of tunnels beneath London. Afraid, alone, but determined, she sets to work on her escape, and soon realises that perhaps there is a reason she and the mysterious marble her sister gave her have ended up so far from home.

Deep in the darkness roam the terrible Corvus, tyrants of the magical realm below. Cecilia’s struggle to return to her family becomes a mission of great danger and adventure, as she tries to help her new friends to free themselves and their beautiful, unique world. But will her heart be brave enough to ensure she doesn’t stay trapped in the darkness forever?


The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer is an imaginative and unique adventure story with a fast-paced plot, a creative range of characters and a big problem to solve. This book is a great read for primary school-aged children, as well as younger teens.

Set in a complex and slightly bizarre world placed just below the London Underground, The Tunnels Below shines in both its interesting world-building and its cast of intriguing and distinctive characters. While I initially struggled to get into the story, I was soon completely sucked into the story as I wondered exactly what kind of world Cecilia had ended up in and how she was going to get home. Even as an adult reader I was kept guessing by the numerous plot twists, and found the issues Cecilia and her new friends faced both complex and inventive.

Despite being a plot-focused story, Wild-Palmer manages to develop her characters in equally compelling ways. Cecilia is a great main character:  brave, determined, and resourceful. I enjoyed the nuances and depth she was given, and the variety in the way she related to different characters, particularly the development of her friendship with Luke and the very realistic relationship she had with her younger sister.

The world of the tunnels has many incredibly unique elements, and I loved the vivid descriptions of the dwellers and their unusual ways. Wild-Palmer’s descriptive skills allow her to create a strong picture of even the strangest of scenes. One of my favourites was the remarkable descriptions at Mrs Hoots Haberdashery, especially Cecilia’s dress made up of scraps of lace and tin foil.

Overall, this book has all the elements needed in a fast-paced adventure story, as well as some heartwarming moments of friendship. There is an Alice in Wonderland flavour, without quite so much nonsense. The writing was clear and simple, but with exciting and interesting content - perfect for kids regardless of reading level.

Nadine Wild-Palmer lives in South London. Her day job means she can be heard on Channel 4 as the voice-over artist announcing the programme schedules. Nadine is also a singer-songwriter and a poet and has worked as a children's librarian. You can find her online via her website, or on social media: Twitter and Instagram.