A young girl finds herself involved with the mythical barbegazi.
Eleven-year-old Tessa lives in a village in Austria and competes on an alpine ski racing team, but she is currently saddened over the ill health of her grandmother and the recent death of her grandfather. Before he died, Opa told her about the mythical, thought-to-be-extinct barbegazi—mountain elves—and she is determined to see one. When Tessa does encounter a barbegazi named Gawion, she eventually learns that Gawion’s sister has been abducted, and Tessa determines to help. The thin, formulaic plot gets no support from its underdeveloped, inconsistent characters. Protagonist Tessa is sad about Oma’s frailty, but there’s no elaboration of their relationship, and for a ski racer, Tessa is extraordinarily uncompetitive. Plot developments are decidedly convenient: Adults are absent on flimsy pretexts, and Gawion speaks Tessa’s language (and all others, including Dog). Important plot points are mentioned early and feel off-the-cuff, with no subsequent prompts, guaranteeing that readers will be confused later on. The subplot of what went wrong with a formerly close friendship is unexplained in both its advent and resolution. The backstory of the barbegazi overexplains its connection to the present story, and the barbegazi family interactions are too much like human parents and teenagers to be innovative. The cast seems to be all white.
A potentially interesting setting is undermined by a thin plot and underdeveloped characters. (Fantasy. 8-12)