During World War II, the future of two worlds—human and fairy—depends on a young American woman in this middle-grade novel.
In 1942, Olivia, under 30, is excited about leaving her Wyoming home for New York City. Soon, she gets a job translating German documents and preparing reports for a handsome, late-30s man called only “the major,” although he becomes Mike Layton after further acquaintance. Also working for Mike is Vivian, who’s Olivia’s age; the two become good friends and roommates. In 1944, Olivia and Vivian are taking a walk when a car mows into them, killing Vivian. It’s no accident; Olivia recognizes the driver, a co-worker, who must be a German spy. A month later, Mike departs for London, leaving Olivia in charge. Then one night, a delicate, winged blue woman brings Olivia life-changing news: “We need your help. Soon the future of the world is to be placed in your hands.” In the fairy realm, called Fridsamt, Olivia is asked to join the Fairy Alliance, become protector of the realm, rescue Mike from his German captors, and defeat the evil Gray Jinn who’s aiding the Nazis—perhaps to develop an atomic weapon. With the help of some fairy inventions, Olivia becomes governess at a German colonel’s home and carries out her bold and risky plans. Dahl (Bugga’s Tales, 2015, etc.) packs a lot of action into this fast-moving story. Olivia is clever, patient, and brave, with a certain spunky American flair: having outfoxed a sneering German general, she ruffles his hair and runs whistling up the stairs. She seems much younger than nearly 30, but that’s a quibble. The uncredited illustrations add a nice touch with their vintage-comics style. As with the Indiana Jones film series, the paranormal plays well with Nazis and their often-cartoonish evil. But given the very real evil of Nazi death camps, readers may wonder why Olivia and the fairies aren’t more concerned about stopping that horror rather than focusing on Britain’s vulnerability to bombs.
An entertaining mashup of history and fantasy, with a likably audacious heroine plotting against the Nazis.