A Hawaii-set, paranormal middle-grade series starter that tells a story about the power of friendship and sacrifice.
Spudich (The Ice Giant, 2019, etc.) presents an exciting tale of a hidden world of sorcerers, goddesses, and people with elemental powers. Tess and her three friends, Amelia, Susie, and Elizabeth, have a bond that’s reflected in the necklaces they wear, highlighting the four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. However, as they get ready to start high school, Amelia’s closeness with her friend Tess, who suffers from a lack of confidence, seems to be fading. The other girls face their own challenges; for example, Elizabeth shows a lack of interest in exercise, and Susie is starting to show impulsive behavior. When Amelia’s sorcerer father, whom she’s never met, suddenly kidnaps her, she embarks on a surprising adventure involving the use of magic. Amelia eventually meets a surprising ally named Akoni; he helps her fight back against her father, who wants Amelia to join him in his dark magic endeavors. Through clever problem-solving and the use of a few magical items, the girls manage to locate Amelia, but their challenges aren’t over. Over the course of this book, Spudich maintains an atmosphere of peril that keeps the pace lively, but she never makes any scenes too scary for older elementary school–age readers to enjoy. The conclusion offers the touching lesson that people can change but still remain close friends. The prose style is simple and straightforward throughout, but the characters are, by contrast, quite complex; the unsure Tess and Amelia’s sorcerer father are each particularly well developed. Young fans of fantastical fiction will also enjoy this book’s magic system, which is inventive without being overly complicated.
Imaginative and engaging magical fiction.