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Published by: Guppy Books, February 2021
I have been wanting to sink my teeth into this middle-grade fantasy adventure ever since I laid eyes on the incredible cover art by Sandra Dieckmann. Seven months later, I've finally managed it and boy, was it a good time of year to settle down with this tale. It's as dark and chilling as the encroaching Autumn nights; intriguing, twisty and with a heroine you just want to shower with TLC.
Few people notice Maggie Blue and that's the way she likes it. But when Ida, a girl she's drawn to, disappears, Maggie realises she has little choice but to follow her into another world if she has any chance of saving her.
Joined by Hoagy, an irritable talking cat, Maggie journeys to Sun City where happiness is on tap. Soon the city's ruler, Eldrow, has taken her under her wing but what exactly does he have in store for her? And where is Ida?
A Sunday Times Children's book of the week and with a cover endorsement from the wonderful Kiran Millwood Hargrave, this not a cheerful read. It is, however, completely compelling. Maggie's life in our world is lonely and troubled, the world she steps into is unsettling and Eldrow's hunt for happiness is disturbing. Yet, this feels like a novel of truths. Truth about the grim reality of life, about what it's like to feel alone and about finding your way through the unknown with nothing but bravery and determination on your side.
Maggie is a beautifully written heroine. She jumps off the page with a vivid reality and an aching hollowness that makes you want to embrace her into your family. Ordinary and yet extraordinary, she seems refreshingly comfortable with who she is, despite her heartache. This made for an interesting comparison with Ida, a girl who appears to have everything that Maggie does not. Alongside Maggie, Hoagy provides the humour and Esme, eccentricity and warmth.
For me, the dark world had echoes of the Wizard of Oz and I can't quite put my finger on why. With fantastical creatures, moon witches and people that can morph into different forms, this is highly original world-building and yet some elements felt familiar in a comforting way. Sometimes, I felt disorientated by this dark land but I think that is the point as we accompany Maggie and the author on their exploration of what happines is and how to obtain it.
With a sequel on the way and lots on unanswered questions, there is still a lot to uncover in the world of Maggie Blue. But with darkness gathering and Hoagy by her side, prepare for the unexpected!
A big thanks to Guppy Books for providing me with a review copy.