Rausin’s debut children’s fantasy novel offers a story of magic, family and trust.
Sixth-grader Amelia grew up in foster and group homes and never knew her parents. She suffered a mysterious accident in the woods that left her paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. Amelia deals with the aftermath as best as she can, supported by her friend Greg and his Grandma K. She feels alienated at school, and she prefers to read fantasy novels, telling herself, “Focus on the words, read, escape; you’re not really here in this classroom. You’re far away in a land where wheelchairs don’t exist.” On the way to a camping trip, Amelia, Greg and Grandma K are in a terrible car accident in which Grandma K dies; Greg and Amelia are transported by a strange vortex to the middle of an ocean, where they meet a queen disguised as a tortoise, who informs them they are in the land of Mystic. They’re told that the first lesson they need to learn is that they “must trust in order to learn to survive.” This advice serves them well in their ensuing adventure; the pair becomes emotionally closer, and Amelia learns things she never knew about herself and her family. The pace picks up when Greg is captured by a minion of Ralient, an evil wizard who aspires to kill the queen and become the powerful Guardian of Mystic. During Amelia’s journey to rescue Greg, she learns how to trust herself fully and taps into great reserves of courage and magic. Overall, this well-written fantasy novel provides a strong, self-reliant female protagonist. Rausin depicts the children realistically and handles the subject of Amelia’s disability with compassion and accuracy. The world of Mystic is portrayed as geographically and politically complex, with a variety of wizards and magical creatures. Toward the novel’s conclusion, the plot moves very quickly, and the fast pace will likely keep young readers’ attention.
A well-told story of one girl’s growing confidence and strength in a magical land.