Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Children's book review : Mistress of the Storm - M. L. Welsh

Wow ! I picked up this book, expecting to appreciate it in the capacity of a parent as a children's book, and ended up staying up late into the night reading for my own pleasure ! I loved it so much, I raced through it in three days.

The opening pages reminded me a bit of an Enid Blyton story, a slightly less twee version of a Famous Five adventure, but the story carefully blends magic and mayhem with a more realistic look at child psychology. Verity Gallant, the totally unknowing heroine of the unfolding story, is a kind-hearted teen but doesn't seem to fit in. Whether it be at school, where her outdated clothes and slightly bookish ways make her an easy target for the bullies, or at home, where she feels like an ugly duckling next to her beautiful, slim, blonde sister Poppy, she seems destined to always be the outsider, never fitting in and never feeling at ease in her own skin.

At the start of the book, she doesn't really have any friends at all, apart from the strange, elderly Alice who she visits regularly. As the story progresses, she hooks up with Henry, an equally rejected schoolmate, and new girl Martha. There's even a slight whisper of a teen crush in the dashing Jeb, who disappears to see the world at the end of the book but I hope he will come back in a future adventure. She even has mixed emotions and a touch of the green-eyed monster when she discovers her mother is expecting a new baby. Many teens and tweens, particularly those having a hard time, will relate to her.

But that's as far as the realism goes. When Verity comes across a mysterious stranger in the library and is told that The Storm is Coming, little does she know that she is about to get swept up in an exciting and dangerous adventure, involving ancient curses, betrayal and murder, tales of shipwreckers and smugglers, dark magic, powerful amulets and deep dark family secrets. Verity knows nothing of her incredible family history, so we uncover the past, present and future at the same time as her.

I love the fact that such a daring, adventurous and death-defying character is a girl. Tweens of both sexes will enjoy reading this exciting tale of adventures and revenge but I love to see such a powerful female lead, which makes a change to much children's fiction which is too gender-stereotyped. I was actually reminded of a cross between Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather and Michelle Lovric's Undrowned Child.

If you're looking to get your kids reading over the summer holidays, this is such an exciting read they'll find it irresistible. But it's too good to keep for the kids so make sure you have a read too ! The book finishes with a sneak preview chapter of the next book in the series so I can't wait to find out what else Verity will get up to when that comes out.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99 (but only £4.99 on amazon)

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books (PB) (2 Jun 2011)
ISBN-10: 184992015X
ISBN-13: 978-1849920155

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  1. Thanks for the review. One of my daughters is eight and I'm sure she'd like it.

  2. This sounds like the sort of thing I'd love! I adore 'young adult' fiction, it's such light relief :)