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A Cage of Roots

A Cage of Roots

Book 1 in the Ayla Trilogy

Written by and Illustrated by Matt Griffin

Magic exists beneath our feet, if we only know where to look …

Growing up in a New York orphanage, Ayla has no idea she has Irish roots. It is not until she comes to Ireland that she finds out just how deep her roots really are...


LAI Award 9-11 Years - 2017

Literacy Association of Ireland - Winner

Paperback: €8.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9781847176813

E-Book (ePub): €3.50
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781847177575

Magic exists beneath our feet, if we only know where to look …

Growing up in a New York orphanage, Ayla has no idea who her family is. It is not until she comes to Ireland that she finds out just how deep her roots really are.

Then her past rises up to haunt her and seeks to destroy her as Ayla is abducted and buried alive in the bowels of the earth.

Above ground, her three best friends set out to find and save her from a fate that has been lying in wait for centuries. Guided by Ayla’s uncles, they must make a treacherous journey that takes them down among the very roots of time.

Matt Griffin

Matthew Griffin was born in Dublin and now lives in Ennis. He has garnered a reputation as one of the most eclectic graphic artists in contemporary illustration, collecting awards and accolades for his work in publishing, advertising and, in particular, the field of poster art. His passion for visual design was always married to one for writing. His first children’s novel, A Cage of Roots, was published in 2015. Storm Weaver followed the same characters further into a fantasy odyssey (2016), and The Spiral Path brings the enemy through a time portal to modern-day Ireland.

A compelling adventure full of danger, betrayal and magic as three friends battle to save their friend Ayla from a terrible fate.… the dark edge to the story is quite masterfully done – even for the adult reader, there is a hint of the macabre! The supernatural element to this story was well presented; it was both intriguing and engaging. This story is also really well written from start to finish, and has an originality that sets it apart from the other fantasy stories- particularly with its links to Irish mythology and its links to contemporary Ireland

Literacy Association of Ireland

mightily impressive

Evening Echo

Matt Griffin's fantasy creation … lies at the very darkest edge of fairy tale … It is a place not of nursery story but of nightmare, not of Tir Na Nog, but of an 'other' magical pre Ireland where life literally withers away after forbidden return. Yet his creation and his narrative are all the more resonant and potent, and indeed all the more terrifying, for their link to the tropes and archetypes of ancient tales. One of the particular strengths of Matt Griffin's narrative is placing within this dark fairy tale context a quartet of young protagonists who are fully contemporary in their language and outlook. They are every inch kids of today, clever, lippy, streetwise. These are certainly no Pevensie children, stumbling with wide eyed wonder into Narnia … [A] Cage of Roots [is] a gripping and powerful read, a potent and imaginative refreshing of many of the tropes and themes of great children's fantasy - with more than a touch of darkness thrillingly added. And of course that wonderful whack of Irishness. Matt Griffin uses very effectively … some of the classic fiction techniques: starting in mid action, interweaving split narratives. It is most skillful writing in any terms - and, as an authorial debut, exceptional. His already much admired artist's imagination, together with its expertly crafted realisation, clearly transfers readily into his writing. Often in trilogies/quartets, second books can drop off a little in quality. But not so here. Storm Weaver, as much a continuation as a sequel, fully maintains the momentum and visceral excitement of the first book … From the ending, it is clear that this sequence is not yet complete - a cause for eager, indeed impatient, anticipation. Assuming that any forthcoming completion will be as good as the first books (and there is every encouragement here to think so) then this will be a very fine and important addition to the cannon of quality children's fantasy literature. Matt Griffin provides his own art work and the simple but darkly elegant covers and strong, menacing illustrations make these books stunning packages in their own right as well complementing the text superbly. It is a shame there are, at present, no hardback editions to collect for posterity, but surely this sequence will soon get the US publication it well merits, and hopefully then

5 stars … this story is really good … this book would be good for both girls and boys … I liked the way the book swaps from one character to the next and it is very exciting, you don't want to put the book down because you want to know what is happening. Will be recommending this book to my class


an original and engaging fantasy … gorgeously, eerily illustrated by the author, A Cage of Roots is equal parts compelling, enchanting and unsettling

Children’s Books Ireland Recommended Reading Guide

full of magic and mystery, deeply rooted in Irish mythology and legends … an astonishing debut … a dark, deep tale of destiny and loyalty of heroic proportion, a strong recommendation for fantasy readers; this will keep you on the edge of your seat. (I do not recommend this as a bedtime read!) Stunning

School Librarian Magazine

with stories of fear, hope, loss, fun, adventure, action, battles, betrayal, mystery and triumph, this is an amazing novel with a perfect cliffhanger ending

Bleachhouse Library Blog

this is a marvellous book! It is aimed at children of ten years and older, but even though I am a little older than that, I loved it

The Clare Herald/

A Cage of Roots will whisk young readers away into a strange world full of old magic, extraordinary friendships and primeval horrors


an intriguing debut for the 9 to 12 age group with some fabulous illustrations from the author … a jam packed adventure featuring time travel and Irish mythology


Recommend the excellent @ACageOfRoots by Matt Griffin. Reckon it's great for reading out loud too

Shane Hegarty

I would give it 8/10 … the plot is wonderful

Orla, 4th class, Belclare N.S.,

this book was enthralling and each character was extremely interesting … I would give this book 8 out of 10 as it was excellently written and the storyline was brilliant throughout

Katie, 6th class, Belclare N.S.,

Very atmospheric, dark and spooky. The opening chapter gripped me and then the later ones scared me - don't read it alone and in the dark!

Martin, age 10,

If you like stories to be dark, slightly scary and include legends and magic, you will love this book!

Sylvie Williams, age 9,

The story was very exciting and I was eager to read to the end to find out Ayla’s fate. The story was original and the illustrations fantastic!

Amie Coffman, age 11,

I loved this story

Shannon McCloskey,

Scary, Creepy, Amazing!

Tom White, age 11,

Full of mystery and magic, ‘A Cage of Roots’ is a story rich in Irish folklore and legend... A book for older children, particularly those who enjoy a thrill of fear!

Sue Wilsher,

It was a satisfying ending but open ended and I hope there will be another book to tell you what happened

Eleanor Cookdale, age 10,

This book was really tense … At the end I really wanted to find out what would happen next

Fiona Sutherland, age 11,

a gripping and truly frightening opening chapter … Irish mythology is ingrained in Matt Griffin’s novel and works to give it a depth and cogency that make it stand out from other fantasy fiction … Cage of Roots will probably have particular resonance for Irish readers familiar with the folklore that supports it, but readers without that knowledge may well be inspired to find out more, such is the atmosphere and sense of adventure created by the author. It could well send readers off to find out more about hurling too, which is terrifically well described! At the finish, everything is set for a new adventure and it will be interesting to see where the author takes it. This is an impressive and imaginative debut novel and Matt Griffin’s own brooding black and white illustrations add to the mood of mysticism

an astonishing debut, filled with the subtle nuance of nightmares, A Cage of Roots weaves a path that blends effortlessly between contemporary day-to-day life and the realm of the ancients. The reader is immediately plunged into the story, feeling as suffocated, confused and desperate as Ayla herself. The pacing is fast, furious, but never forced. The instant sense of danger is tangible, as the reader doesn't have time to wonder why or how or who. These essentials are revealed (with great skill, I might add) as the story unfolds, dipping and diving from the underground to the above ground. The characters are well drawn, with a real sense of personality and relationship. And this book is frightening... gripping and moving! A dark, deep tale of destiny and loyalty of heroic proportion, a strong recommendation for fantasy readers; this will keep you on the edge of your seat. (I do not recommend this as a bedtime read.) Stunning.

Fallen Star Stories

this is an impressive and imaginative debut novel and Matt Griffin’s own brooding black and white illustrations add to the mood of mysticism

a powerful first chapter that grabs hold of its readers and ensnare them tightly in its tendrils, unfolds into a dark, subterranean world of terror … a remarkable debut novel … one of those rare books that has the potential to imprint itself permanently on one’s memory … a uniquely Irish thriller

Evening Echo

captivating … an abundance of unusual ideas … if you are going to get lost in a book, this is a fine choice ... the author’s atmospheric illustrations must be mentioned, which add immensely to the potent mysticism. All in all, this is an excellent midnight read for young goblins’ ‘The author is at his strongest while underground, depicting all the terrible and unimaginable horrors – a hellish dark place that suggests what would happen if Neil Gaiman and H.P. Lovecraft decided to co-write a gardening manual


An astonishingly different and chillingly striking tale that envelopes the pages in a cloak of darkness and mystery. The author hurls the reader straight into the middle of the story, waiting before making introductions and explaining friendships, which effectively ensures you feel Ayla’s shock at the unknown world she finds herself in. The friendship and bravery of the children on their quest holds a torch of light to the fear, the author leaves you on the brink of doubt as you literally will the light to stay true and strong. The scarily real illustrations reach out as pages are turned, knowing that they come directly from the authors mind, as he is the illustrator, connects them even more strongly to the story. This has the feeling of a modern fairy tale about it, full of the scarily weird and vibrantly wonderful, as you turn the last page you are left standing on the edge of wanting more!

unusual and atmospheric this is not a bedtime read - the author's own rather uncanny illustrations add strongly to the feel of the book

The Author Speaks

  • The Root of Inspiration

    Author and award-winning illustrator Matt Griffin talks about the inspiration behind his debut novel, A Cage of Roots.

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching guide to the book by Peter Heaney

Audio available: listen to some of this book now ...

    Audiobook chapter 1 part 1. Read by Luke Griffin:
    Audiobook chapter 1 part 2:
    Audiobook chapter 1 part 3:

Also by Matt Griffin:

Storm Weaver
The Spiral Path

Go to author page...

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