Hello humans! As some may have noticed I’ve been dropping a few more examples of middle-grade titles into my reading schedule these past few months, generally it’s been an incredibly positive experience, I think a lot of the settings and characters in middle-grade titles have the whimsy that somehow rarely gets written into either YA or adult fiction. So when author M. J. Fahy reached out to me and offered to send me a copy of her book The Magpie King in exchange for an honest review I said yes, please!
A beautiful middle grade magical adventure. In the large and frightening world of the Bigguns, Tatty Moon, a faerie child, must rid her village of thieving magpies and rampaging Gnomes, all under the spell of the Queen’s merciless nephew. With the help of a group of friends who include a gypsy, an elf, a wood sprite, an elderly rat, and a hawk-sized dragonfly, Tatty journeys far to try and defeat him. (Book One in the Tatty Moon series.) This book runs to 39 chapters, and is written for ages 8 years and up. ‘I’m so glad I took the time to devour this delicious book.’ ‘Wings and lovely things!’
My concern early on with this book was that it would be too twee. Of course middle-grade is sometimes toned a little differently from other books which isn’t a problem, but I can’t abide a story that feels too perfect, too sweet or two…five years ago I would have said ‘girly’ but I don’t actually agree with that definition in this case, so I’m sticking with Twee. From the synopsis, I thought it would be the case with this book, that it was going to be all fairies and flowers and nothing too terrible would happen. I was delighted that wasn’t the case. Yes, this is a story about fairies and all other kinds of small creatures, and yes it has the feel of the kinds of bedtime stories I had as a child,, but there is something slightly more edgy about this story that I wasn’t expecting.
From the elements of real danger these characters get themselves into, to the quirky additions to the setting (my favourite of which was bicuspid cottage which was pretty much exactly as you might imagine). It lifted this story from just being a twee middle-grade story to being something that I (a 23-year-old woman) also enjoyed. I think, therefore, I’m right in saying that this book would appeal to a great number of younger readers with all different kinds of interests. Whether they’re weird kids like me who need a little bit of darkness to really enjoy a story, or whether they love the flower fairy stories (because there’s nothing wrong with that).
I did find myself constantly thinking how lovely this book would be read aloud at bedtime, not that you couldn’t enjoy reading it independently, it just has that kind of feel to it.
The one thing that felt a little less polished compared to the rest of the book was the pacing, I felt like the opening chapters dragged quite a bit, it wasn’t until maybe a third of the way through the book (perhaps even further) that things really got going, and then the conclusion of the main plotline happens in the blink of an eye – where I would have preferred a little more time to spent on it.
Overall, I think this is a really fun, quirky story that has a lot of positive and interesting aspects to it. I think it’s definitely pitched at younger readers, but hey, if I enjoyed it then maybe other older readers will too!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I was sent a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Which middle-grade stories do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!