The worldquake has caused all technology to go back to 1992, the time of pagers and closed network computers (i.e. no internet!) Effie’s grandfather, her best pal in the world and the man meant to teach her magic has just died. He leaves her his library and a handful of magical artifacts, but her grandfather’s nemesis’ will not just allow her to have the super rare books. Will Effie and her new friends at the Tusitala School for the Gifted and Strange solve the puzzles, beat the curses and overcome the evil Diberi?
by Scarlett Thomas
Worldquake Sequence #1
Published April 6th 2017
by Canongate Books
Effie is by far the protagonist of our story but Max shares the limelight with her and a dual POV. I liked that neither child whined or went on about how horrid their life was, it was more about how they could improve the bits that were the worst. I adored how the group of friends came together. There are three girls and two boys. Max and Wolf take center stage first which I thought was a smart decision. The other two girls, Lexy and Raven do play a major role in the climax but only come into the story when it makes sense for them to appear. This is a sort of origin story of how this little group of magical students first came together and you can imagine after reading this book they have many wonderful magical adventures in store.
There is also a plethora of minor characters that make this world rich: Odile, Max’s mother; Carl, Wolf’s older brother; Cosmos, a proper wizard; Rollo and Clothide, siblings and special librarians; plus Longfellow, a magical lawyer. I don’t want to give anything away but I have to give a shout out to a wonderful minor character – Odile, Max’s mother. For a parent I thought she was portrayed in the best way as a mother trying to do what she thought was best for her child but realizing that he is also going to be a grown person pretty soon and sometimes she has to go with what he decides. And Longfellow’s admiration for Effie after their battle through the forest was quite moving to me. It was a great way to tell the reader what Effie did in the most natural of ways.
The people really make the setting pop but the world itself is pretty darn cool. The magical boons were one of my favorite parts as each was figured out and put to use in the story. It’s a world that touches magic but also the power of books. There is this incredible backstory to the Diberi, of which the villain is one and shows us what an evil person really looks like (a book killer!) The mysterious worldquake is touched on enough to know how it affected the world – that it somehow merged low tech with magic. Words like epiphanized (which means your magic awakened) help give a sense of what it means to have magic in a very real way. Dragon’s Green itself is a fabulous place that provides a grand first adventure. The dragon will cause much hilarity for children reading the book (I thought him quite cute)! And places like Miss Butters Bun Shop and the magic market give us a taste of what is to come in the rest of the series. This book is literally a minor taste of what this world has to offer us! The world intrigues us but the characters make us want to stay and go on the adventures ourselves…
Effie and Max’s individual stories were quite compelling and worked nicely with one another as we switched POVs between the two. The thing I really enjoyed was how they mirrored one another and yet contrasted each other at the same time. It’s a great way to show child readers how life isn’t going to go the same way just because you experience similar situations. And Effie actually thought her way out of her dilemma while Max had to rely on the help of friends. Again a nice contrast. Each POV was written specifically enough that I knew who I was reading at any given time. It’s a pet peeve of mine when I can easily loose track of which POV I’m in and this book did not stray there one bit! Everything is told to us. As a middle grade book I expect this, even though it does grate at times I was super excited at the little details that were thought out to make up the world.
I did not particularly like the cover at all, not either of the covers on goodreads. The one I got with the dark figure and the moon was well drawn but did not help give a sense of the world or the protagonists. It should work together with the title (which also was not the best even though it came straight from the story) to give readers a mini-capsule of the story contained therein. Let me say the story is head and shoulders better than the cover and title!! I would definitely read the next in the series and recommend it to children finishing Harry Potter and needing something different but still magical.
BOTTOM LINE: 5 stars. A great series start to a dystopia magic mix up for middle grade readers!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“NetGalley delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use NetGalley at no cost.” Netgalley is a special section of my book discussions where I post reviews of the digital books I read through this service. It’s quite amazing the gems you can find. I’ve yet to regret reading a book, even if I don’t like it…