Friday 18 September 2020
UPCOMING RELEASE: The House At The Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes and Ben Mantle
Published: Jan 7th 2021 by Walker Books
Heads up everyone! There is magical middle grade and then there is magical, MAGICAL middle grade! And, if you like a generous helping of humour and quirkiness sprinkled in amongst that magic then this is the book for you. In fact, this book is so magical that it should come with a warning:
Don't pick up if you don't believe in magic - for it will change your whole life.
Nine is desperate to escape her life as a pickpocket. Forced to steal in exchange for shelter, she has nothing she can call her own. But, when a tiny ornament falls from a lady's purse, Nine steps into a whole new world of impossibility.
As the ornament transfigures into a cursed house, full of magic and mystery, Nine is offered a deal. If she breaks the curse that has entrapped the strange and rather ridiculous residents inside, then she will receive a reward that will buy her freedom. But someone is watching! And, if Nine does break the curse, can she walk away from the house at the edge of magic?
This book is a magical Oliver Twist, full of characters that are as memorable and as loveable as the Dickens classic. That is where the similarity ends, however, for this read is far more magical than your average novel set in the nineteenth century. Crackling with spark and intrigue and humour, it is guaranteed to make you laugh your socks off and bust away those January blues. I mean, the cover says it all!
The characters are fabulous! From the moment Nine, a down and out, lonely and defensive protagonist, steps into the house, she finds herself in the company of a housekeeping troll, a rather incompetent wizard and a fierce Scottish spoon with a sword. The dynamics between all of them are simply hilarious and the pacey and hugely entertaining plot brings out the absolute best in all of them. I particularly loved the tea-cupboard scenes which shows off the extent of Amy Sparkes' fantastic imagination.
There's more! As well as a deliciously sinister and mischievous villain, there are puzzles to solve and a ticking clock. And just when you think the author can't possible pack anymore in, a skeleton falls out of the closet. But with family secrets piling up, can Nine uncover the truth about the curse?
The humour and quirkiness in this novel is balanced beautifully with warmth and heart. I adored the relationship between Nine and Eric whilst Flabberghast and the witch, with their entertaining but edgy banter, are akin to Merlin and Madam Mim from Disney's Sword in the Stone. Nine will resonate with readers as being a character who thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but who really needs a whole dose of love and it is her emotional journey that steals your heart at the end.
For a middle grade, this is an easily accessible novel. It's slightly shorter length is perfect for reluctant readers but never fear- it is packed full of potency. There's literally not a dull moment in the tale. The storytelling is as captivating as a spell and by the time the sequel comes around, it will be like going back to have tea with old friends.
To sum up in three words; this is a comfy, quirky, fantabulous read. It's the novel I wanted to read as a child and I have no doubt that my children are going to love it!
The House At The Edge of Magic is released on 7th January 2021 and is available to pre-order. A massive thanks to Amy Sparkes and Walker Books for allowing me to read the proof.
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