Good morning friends! Today we’re looking at a witchy novel, a bit younger than the books I normally read. In audience that is. This book was actually first published in 1991 before I was even born, so it’s quite interesting seeing how the story compares to similar books publishing now.
At first glance, the small seaside town of Whitby seems quiet and charming, but eight year-old Ben and his older sister Jennet soon learn that things are not always as they seem. Moved about from foster home to foster home, Ben and Jennet hope to make a fresh start in Whitby. But Ben sees things and people others cannot. There’s something unusual about Alice Boston, their new guardian. And what is that horrible howling Jennet hears late at night? Something wicked’s brewing in Whitby. Can Ben and Jennet put it to rest?
This book is set in the wonderful English seaside town of Whitby, however a slightly alternative universe where there is a certain amount of magic that is not common knowledge to most people. I liked this setting, though my own experience of English seaside towns is less ‘oh how charming’ and more ‘oh I’m sure this was nice a long time ago but now it just looks a little crusty’. The level of fantasy I felt was pretty standard for a novel for young teens/older children as it isn’t overly complicated. I imagine, if one were going to pitch this novel at an older audience there would be more explanations of how magic works but it just wasn’t necessary in this title.
As far as characters were concerned it was the classic older sister/younger brother orphans dynamic. I thought both children were suitably non-whiney and also both had a significant hand in the plot, rather than one of them dominating which was a pleasant change from a lot of sibling duos.
It was the old ladies who really captured my heart in this book. Aunt Alice is a likeable and also powerful character that you just know you would have a good time if you got to have tea and cake with her.
Our villain was a masterpiece of a children’s book villain. She caught my attention and she was just a horrible person. There’s a nice simplicity to that, something you don’t see often in literature aimed at the slightly older.
The plot is a good one. We meet mythical creatures, there’s a quest, a time limited pursuit for a magical artefact and everyone learns something by the end of the book.
I really enjoyed this foray into children’s literature. In many ways it was a simpler time back in 1991 and you don’t feel as though this book is following any trends or anything like that. It was refreshing and fun and while the book isn’t a barrel of sunshine and rainbows I think it would make a really good story for younger avid readers.
My rating: 4/5 (but I do think, if I were 8-12 I would have given it a 5/5 so keep that in mind)
By the way, I received a free digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from the publisher (Egmont Publishing) in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own! This edition publishes on June 1st so there’s time to order your own copy!
Have you read this in the past? Are there any good nineties novels I should try and dig out? Let me know in the comments or on twitter @judithcmoore. Look forward to hearing from you