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  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775423
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.00

Violet Black

The first book in the Black Spiral Trilogy

Set in the near future, this first book in a fast-paced trilogy will hook you in from the first page.

Violet Black and Ethan Wright are both in a coma after contracting the lethal M-fever. They have never met:

I couldn’t speak, but I was trying so hard to communicate and then . . . then . . .
I pushed. And something, someone, pushed back.
Her name is Violet. Violet, but she is sunshine-yellow, and I need to find her because I think she might be just like me.

But there is a far more serious reason for Ethan to find Violet: the sinister Foundation is trying to hunt them down.

Reviews of Eileen’s previous books:
A Trio of Sophies doesn't so much as start as launch the reader into the centre of a storm that will hold you until the very last secret is solved.‘ — Weekend Herald

‘Merriman writes what teenagers want to read, and she certainly knows how to write it well.’ — NZ Books on Invisibly Breathing

‘Merriman just seems to be able to cut straight to the intensity of a relationship, or a first relationship the anguish, drama, the second guessing and the doubt, and the pure electricity of those first physical encounters’ — Radio NZ on Catch Me When You Fall

‘I found it to be compelling, challenging, and heartbreaking, but very real. It handles teen issues with grace and sensitivity but doesn't shy away from honesty.’ – Tots to Teens on Pieces of You

  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775423
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.00

About the author

Eileen Merriman

Eileen Merriman’s first young adult novel, Pieces of You, was published in 2017, and was a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and a Storylines Notable Book. Since then, a stream of novels for adults and young adults have followed. She has received huge critical praise, with one reviewer saying: ‘Merriman is an instinctive storyteller with an innate sense of timing.’ In addition to being a regular finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, Merriman was a finalist in the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Moonlight Sonata was longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020. Editions of some of her young adult novels have been released in Germany, Turkey and the UK and three have been optioned for film or TV, including the Black Spiral Trilogy.

Her other awards include runner-up in the 2018 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award and third in the same award for three consecutive years previously. She works as a consultant haematologist at North Shore Hospital.

Also by Eileen Merriman

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Praise for Violet Black

NZ Book Awards’ finalist Eileen Merriman presents the first book in what promises to be an intriguing, page-turner of a new trilogy written to appeal to readers aged 12 and up. Set in the near future, this story sees Violet Black and Ethan Wright struggling against the cruel intentions of the sinister Foundation.

East Life

This young adult novel is the first in a fantasy trilogy from prolific author Eileen Merriman. Eerily, in these Covid times its plot centres around a contagious disease, M-fever, which mostly affects teens and young adults, and is most often fatal. Seventeen-year-old Violet awakes after surviving M-fever but to find an unexpected consequence—she can hear other people’s thoughts. And she isn’t alone. It’s a great read full of action, espionage as the government effectively kidnaps the affected teens to create a unique squad of spies, and some romance. This novel kept me enthralled till the end and definitely left me wanting more.

Ann Kilduff, Whanganui Midweek

The author’s science and medical background is evident in Violet Black, setting up a strong foundation for this exciting trilogy. No.2 Black Wolf – is out September 2021, and told in another of the teen’s viewpoints (Phoenix). No.3 Black Spiral – is due 2022. Science, espionage, betrayal, secrets, and the promise of more action, revenge, and heart ache will hold me until I can get my hands on the rest of this trilogy. Another great novel by this talented award winning author.


Violet Black hits all the right notes for a thrilling read that teenagers (and older readers) will enjoy. There is romance and action, a deadly pandemic and controversial vaccines, big money and manipulation. And at the heart of the story is a group of ordinary teenagers, suddenly ripped from their families and grappling with abilities that will change their lives forever. I can’t wait to read the next instalment – I’m hooked!

Karen McMillan, nzbooklovers

In Eileen Merriman’s first instalment of a futuristic fantasy trilogy for young adults, we encounter a world not too far removed from our own. . . By merging medical science in a believable setting with science fiction elements, Violet Black will intrigue. . . . Merriman draws in contemporary social issues, not only attitudes to epidemics and vaccines, but also terrorism. As her characters battle vindictiveness, we are asked to think about the importance of individual lives as well as the protection of human qualities in a world of rapid technological transformation. . . . Merriman has shown herself to be a prolific writer across genres and age groups. It is not easy in writing for young people to replicate authenticity and not condescend, even innocently. However, Merriman has no problem in avoiding these pitfalls. . . . this is a tightly structured read where the reader must engage in issues entirely of relevance as we too adjust to an unknown, morphing and daunting present.

Jessie Neilson, Kete.co.nz

Characters matter, dialogue matters, real-life detail matters, significant issues matter and you are always held in the grip of a perfectly pitched narrative. Yet Violet Black, the first in Eileen’s Black Spiral YA trilogy, is dystopian fiction. . . . Violet and Ethan are seventeen, in love, and both in an m-fever coma in hospital. Their love strand is one part of the narrative, but so too are the increasingly sinister questions that touch upon ethics and what is in the best interests of humanity. . . . With Eileen’s medical background, the plague presence is utterly convincing. So too is the ability to craft plot, to build relationships and ideas that have a contemporary significance and edge. I am no teenager, and would love to know what they think of the book, but I enter this dystopian space and in Eileen’s hands it feels both utterly real and spikely relevant. I felt bereft when I got to the last page knowing I would have to wait until September 1st for the release of Book 2. When you consider the degree to which our world is under threat, I believe novels like this get the teenage reader thinking. To what degree are choices made in the best interests of the world? Why do we need to be conversant in ethics? Ideas taking control of a novel at the expense of everything else would weaken its impact. Not so with Violet Black. The novel also delivers the complexity of family relations, the infectiousness of teenage love, a narrative flicker that things may not always be taken at face value. . . . I love this book and I can’t wait to read the next one. Violet Black has been optioned by South Pacific Pictures Ltd for a potential TV series. I can see why. This is YA fiction at its glorious life-crackling best, and yes, we are never too old to be seduced by YAF’s wide-ranging charms. We get to experience the way a novel can entertain us and, at the same time, lay down vital challenges that get us thinking and feeling. Sublime.

Paula Green, Poetry Shelf

In the first of a trilogy, author Eileen Merriman produces fast paced action matched with authentic and exciting dialogue (both through speech and think-speech) that pushes a pretty complex narrative along. The placement of the action in New Zealand, Australia and Germany provides a nice change from the commonplace locations of the science fiction YA genre. Plus with Merriman’s medical background (she is a Consultant Haematologist at North Shore Hospital) the descriptions of the scientific elements are thorough but simple enough for readers to follow without difficulty. . . . A wonderfully rich novel which will leave the reader anticipating the next move of Violet in the second book of the trilogy.

Chris Reed, Read NZ Te Pou Muramura

What I love about this kind of premise is the question of who gets to decide what the “greater good” is and the ethical dilemmas that rise around “super-powers” – the application and control of them. I love the way the imbalance of power triggers that need for justice. In Violet Black, I loved hating The Foundation puppet masters and cheered at any little rebellion amongst the teens. There’s something so intensely satisfying about witnessing that push-back against power. With a light touch, Merriman invites us to examine heavy questions about right and wrong, indoctrination, the rights of the individual versus the rights of society, all without sermonizing. However, one of my favourite things about reading this book is Merriman’s scientific and medical background – you just know she knows her stuff. Violet Black marks the beginning of a thrilling sci-fi adventure with sparks of romance and humour to light up the dark twists and turns of The Foundation. Merriman is a gifted-storyteller.

Rachael Craw, KidsBooksNZ

This was the first book by Eileen Merriman I have read and it did not disappoint. I can't wait to explore more of her work. The story was engaging right from the start, pacey, and scarily close to current events! It had relevant and contemporary themes that highlighted the possibility of what could, and is happening now in the world with Covid-19. . . . Overall, this was an enjoyable, easy, fast read with sufficient twists and a great first book for anyone looking to expand their reading into dystopian fiction. This is definitely a book that will hook teen and adult readers looking for a high octane, quick read in.

Molly Molving-Lilo, Magpies

The first in a gritty, thrilling YA trilogy which Penguin picked up during level four lockdown and South Pacific Pictures has optioned for a TV series. . . . Merriman, a haematologist at North Shore Hospital, has always been particularly strong at writing death and loss and shock. Here she makes her protagonist, Violet, hurt like hell and she makes us hurt with her. There are giddy highs, too – a new love, those psychic powers of course, the satisfaction of teens outsmarting their elders. It’s very bloody sinister in parts; lots of sedation and trippy dream elements; that and the whole “team of extraordinary kids training for a mission” thing reminded me of Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Except Violet Black is much better written. . . . The second instalment, Black Wolf, is out in late August. I am extremely invested.

Catherine Woulfe, The Spinoff

Violet Black by Eileen Merriman was disturbingly and chillingly full of the possibility of being too close to truth.

TK Roxborogh, Stuff

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi or fantasy adventure, a thrilling dystopia or an against-all-odds story; a fast-paced opening to a trilogy or a mystery novel. If you’ve ever dreamed of being recruited by a secret agency, or fighting bad guys, this book is for you. This is a stunning book which I would recommend for readers aged 12-15.

Sasha Maclean, Hooked on NZ Books, Read NZ

I loved Violet Black by Eileen Merriman. I couldn’t stop reading: what got me at first was the introduction of a dystopian world post-pandemic. It reminded me of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. And then I kept searching for more information, and I am still craving it after finishing the book. . . . Something that I love about this dystopia, is that the author does not tell us everything. I found that I was left with a lot of questions about how this new world works. The author led me into a trap of wanting to read the next book, which was a smart move on her part. The book ends in a cliffhanger, which opens more unanswered questions, both for the future of the characters, namely Violet, and in the hopes that we come to understand their society more. . . . The author seems to enjoy playing with her reader’s emotions, most notably through the building and destroying of relationships. But while enduring the struggles of the characters, it is worth it because we can unravel mysteries within this new dystopian world, and follow the action. After reading this book, at a time when we face our own pandemic, it seems the author is warning us about the dangers of global warming and encourages us to take a look at how we respond to a pandemic. Overall, this book is interesting, thought-provoking, and a great read for young adults.

Trillion, Hooked on Books

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  Storylines Notable Book

New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

Shortlisted  •  2022  •  NZ Book Awards for Children and YA

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