A young Victorian girl is called to duty in a battle between witchy good and evil.
Except for odd, compelling visions seen in rainy-day puddles, Annabel’s an unremarkable white, middle-class girl schooled in proper behavior. But when her mother unexpectedly sends her off to live with elderly aunts, Annabel arrives on the eve of a crisis in the heart of London. The aunts are witches, of course. London’s aging witches and wizards, members of the Great & Benevolent Magical Society, must rely on Annabel to avert disaster. Mr. Angel is the inventor of a machine that extracts dark magic by feeding on sad things: mourning ribbons, unsent letters, loss and sorrow of all kinds. He plans to feed Annabel to it as the ultimate sad sacrifice, thereby harvesting enough dark magic to immerse the world in evil. Foxlee deftly wields the tropes of witchery: the importance of wands, the character and flight of broomsticks, and the selection of magical objects—for Annabel, a seeing stone. Her heroines—besides Annabel, there’s Kitty, the dark-browed, green-eyed “wild girl” from the streets, and a young troll with aspirations—have grit and heart, and they are willing to get dirty. And they do. Foxlee’s nicely wry tone and moments of incongruous humor break up the tension, while Annabel’s race against time in a harrowing journey deep under London keeps the pages turning. McKay’s three-dimensional art suffers in its matte, black-and-white rendition here, but it’s still a pleasant complement.
Deliciously complex and convincingly detailed. (Historical fantasy. 9-13)