|Image from Amazon.co.uk|
I read Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster, a “highly-rated fantasy novel for younger teens,” with trepidation. This is my first solicited book review; her PR firm reached out to me to offer me a copy if I’d review it, and my first thought (of course) was, “Hey! Free stuff!” My second was, “But what if I don’t like it?”
I resolved to read it critically, and if I needed to remind myself that I wasn’t the target audience, then so be it.
|The Cranky Book Reviewer doesn’t like feeling trepidatious. (Image credit: author’s own.)|
I needn’t have worried. It’s a wonderful book.
Summary (no spoilers)
It is Ms. Foster’s first novel. The story follows Esme, a 15-year-old whose father has just remarried, her artist mother having disappeared — presumed drowned — seven years before. Troubled when her new stepmother’s family tries to erase her mother’s presence in her home, Esme discovers clues that lead her to Aeolia, a magical world where enchantment is part of every person, place and thing. As she explores this beautiful new setting, her friends help her learn that bravery and trust are essential as they search for the truth not just behind her mother’s disappearance but in saving Aeolia itself.
What’s good about this book?
Action? Yes. Magic? Yes, by the bucketful. Mystery? So much. There’s even a possible romance hinted at (after all, the main characters are teenagers).
The language is beautifully descriptive, though a little high in similes for my taste, but Ms. Foster paints the two dramatically different worlds she has created vividly and ably. With her detailed — but not heavily overdone — descriptions, I could picture not only Esme’s mom’s artwork, but the otherworldly characters and settings as well. For me, however, the main characters could have used more development; the setting is definitely the star.
The story moves along at a good pace, with new magic revealed almost at every page as Esme explores her new surroundings. It’s a strangely enchanting mix of magical creatures, teenage angst, adventure and even politics. There is foreshadowing, tension, unresolved issues and vaguely threatening characters that you just know will come back to do something evil… and Ms. Foster has left room for a sequel(s) to make sure they do.
I tried, here and there, to read it through the lens of a younger reader, and I believe it hits the mark (I’ve given it to my ten-year-old for his opinion too). I’d recommend it to fantasy readers in the 12-14 year range. Younger readers might have a difficult time getting through the flowery language and some quite threatening, scary scenes, and older ones might want more danger or romance, but I think it hits a nice balance, and again, it’s absolutely overflowing with magic.
4 out of 5 stars
Overall, I enjoyed it very much, and look forward to reading the next book in the series.
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