In this sequel to Withering-by-Sea (2016), 11-year-old Stella Montgomery finally uncovers the secrets of her past.
At the book’s opening, crabby Aunts Deliverance, Temperance, and Condolence send the orphan to the crumbling family estate, Wormwood Mire, for lessons in obedience. The Aunts are in for a shock. Stella makes fast friends with her cousins: science-minded Strideforth and silent-by-choice Hortense, a little girl who communicates with animals. Their governess, the kindly Miss Araminter, encourages the children to pursue their interests, even when that means getting muddy outdoors. Stella, who can make herself invisible at will, has many questions about her past, during the time she lived at Wormwood Mire as a baby. Does she have a twin sister, as an old photograph suggests? Why can she make herself disappear? What happened to her mother, and who was her father? The narrative takes place in an unknown locale at an undisclosed time, but context places it in the English countryside during the Victorian period. The all-white characters possess colonizer ideologies: anything foreign is feared but also there for the taking; Wormwood Mire is full of artifacts from such faraway places as Morocco and China. The deadly monster terrorizing the superstitious villagers is symbolic of this winner-takes-all attitude.
A gratifying continuation of Stella’s story. (Fantasy. 8-12)