Half a Crown - Jo Walton The final instalment in a trilogy, the earlier books of which are Farthing and Ha'penny, I could not put this book down once I reached the half-way mark. It took all my resolution not to peak at the last page. I was kept guessing about what would happen - heart in mouth - until the end.

The setting is London in 1960, some ten years on from the events of Ha'penny. A fascist government is in power and Jews are deported to camps on the Continent. Germany and Japan have won the war and Russia has been essentially destroyed. The central character of the previous novels, police officer Peter Carmichael, is now in charge of the Watch, a Gestapo-type security organisation. The first signs of dissatisfaction with the regime are starting to manifest themselves in public demonstrations.

In structure, the novel follows the earlier books in the trilogy. There are alternating chapters of first and third person narratives. In this novel, the first person narrator is 18 year old Elvira, Carmichael's ward. She has grown up under fascism and, unlike the first person narrators of Farthing and Ha'penny, she knows nothing of any other system. So Elvira, a debutante on the verge of being presented to the Queen and going to Oxford University, accepts all she has been told about Jews and homosexuals and has no interest in politics, other than to suppose that attending a political rally where Jews are taunted might be a bit of fun.

The third person narrative again concerns Carmichael, as he navigates through the requirements of his position and the demands of his conscience. Carmichael is a wonderful character: intelligent, insightful and flawed.

In part, the novel is Elvira's coming of age story, as she gradually reaches an understanding of the world in which lives. This is a world which Walton has created in a way that is completely and horrifyingly believable. Much of this is achieved in the tangential revelations which pepper the narrative. For example, the reader learns - almost in passing - that this is a world in which Moscow and Miami have been destroyed by nuclear bombs. It is also a world in which, as Elvira's matter of fact narrative reveals, only male heads of families are allowed to have a key to the front door of their homes.

The novel is not only about Elvira, though. Carmichael's internal struggle and external dilemmas are equally compelling, as is the political intrigue which forms the basis of the plot.

This was an amazing book and the climax of an amazing series. The world Jo Walton created and the characters which populate it will stay with me for a long time. Highly, highly recommended.