As if new living arrangements, new school and new country weren’t enough to contend with, how about facing whole new worlds?
Eleven-year-old Lancashire lad Darwen Arkwright knows his Aunt Honoria is trying to make living in Atlanta, Ga., bearable. But tea that’s more lukewarm water with a floating tea bag (ugh) that looks like a mouse, a distracted “babysitter,” Honoria’s busy lifestyle and her reliance on upscale takeout are not helping him settle in. Just before the start of school, Darwen follows a strange flying creature through the mall (after watching it messily devour a sparrow) and ends up at Octavius Peregrine’s Reflectory Emporium, which sells mirrors priceless and perilous. The odd proprietor gifts Darwen with a mirror that becomes first a window and then a door on the sylvan world of Silbrica. Darwen is a Mirroculist and can see through darkling mirrors into other worlds. Meanwhile, at the overly regimented private school Honoria enrolled him in, Darwen makes a couple friends…and as many enemies. Thefts at school, strange bones in the schoolyard and terrifying troubles in Silbrica all seem connected by more than just Darwen. Can he puzzle things out and survive? Hartley’s first dark fantasy for young audiences is, out of the gate, an imaginative page turner that manages to be by turns spooky, suspenseful and touching.Likely the start of a series; “Brilliant!” as Darwen would say. (Fantasy. 9-14)