Staff review by Chris Hubbard
Karen Foxlee’s new novel for young readers is a thrilling and delightful tale brimming with magic, friendship and bravery.
It is London in the late nineteenth century and young Annabel Grey is sent by her mother to live with two mysterious aunts who own a magic shop. Annabel’s life is soon turned upside down with the revelation that she is the latest in a long line of family witches.
Annabel’s aunts belong to an organisation known as The Great & Benevolent Magical Society, and this group of aging witches and wizards has been receiving threats from the evil Mr Angel. Mr Angel’s creation of a Dark Magic Extracting Machine has been instrumental in raising an army of frightening Shadowlings, creatures culled from the dark shadowy corners of London, and he intends to take over the city and destroy all good magic in the process.
It has been decreed by the aunts that Annabel is a “most magical girl” and that it is she who should venture into Under London, a land below ground, to retrieve the Morever Wand which is crucial to stopping Mr Angel’s plans. As you can imagine this seemingly impossible task fills Annabel with dread but she is taught to draw upon abilities she never imagined having. In one of the books many mysterious moments, the aunts instruct Annabel on how to find her way through the subterranean land by way of a map they magically inscribe onto her body.
Luckily the new witch is not alone in her quest. Joining her is the wild and feisty Kitty, a “betwixter”child who spends her nights with London’s mischeivous and honey scented fairies. There’s also an undisciplined and stubborn flying broomstick that has to be politely spoken to if safe transportation is required.
A Most Magical Girl’s plot is a cauldron bubbling with thrills and mystery but what really makes it special is Karen Foxlee’s magical writing. From the very first page the reader is immersed in a completely believable world where real magic hovers not only in the forests and laneways but in the inner heart of our reluctant heroine. Annabel and Kitty’s Dante-esque journey may be full of dangers and frights but there are also lovely moments such as when they encounter a family of trolls and gain a new friend in the process. There’s even a monstrous dragon that is described as having black wings that unfold “like a thousand umbrellas being opened in unison”.
This is one of the year's most delightful books for children. Young readers will be thrilled to join Annabel Grey on her breathtaking journey.
A Most Magical Girl, by Karen Foxlee. Published by Picadilly Books. ISBN: 9781848125742 RRP: $19.99
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