In Cherubim’s debut YA novel, a young, abused girl discovers magic in her life as she inherits wealth and a position at a school for the spiritually gifted.
Mary Baker, who spends hours locked in a closet by her abusive mother, mourns when the kind grandfather she hardly knew dies. When Mary inherits Grandpa Hal’s haunted orchard, as well as his hidden wealth and an important stone, her mother takes the battle to court—and Mary begins a happier life in the custody of her grandfather’s friends, who run the orchard. Just as she adjusts to better circumstances, she is whisked off to the White Light Center, a New-Age school where she learns how to communicate with spirits and surrender to God. The plot’s long buildup means that most of the action—the loss of Grandpa Hal’s precious stone and the attempt to recover it—is crammed into the last half, and Mary’s new friends at the White Light Center are rushed in their character development. The supernatural subplots bear some similarity to the Harry Potter series, but those concerned about witchcraft in Rowling’s tales might appreciate the God-centered focus here (although the magic itself is divorced from religion and dependent on crystals). The magical practice—talking to good spirits, shunning evil ones and consulting the Holy Spirits—may attract readers itching for such adventures. Author Cherubim imaginatively renders key factors in her spiritual system—surrendering to the will of God—throughout the novel, initially in Mary’s first swimming lessons and later as a deus ex avis, when some of Mary’s problems are solved, just as she has given up solving them, by her parrot. While Mary and her friends and family have some depth, the villains—Mary’s wicked mother, an evil sorceress and the wicked Zad—are completely two-dimensional placeholders for bad deeds. Still, young readers may appreciate the world of spirits and strange creatures found at a magic school.
A New-Age tale of surrendering to God’s will packaged as a Hogwarts-like adventure.