In this middle-grade fantasy debut, a group of children hopes to thwart the malicious schemes of Scotland’s Dark Faeries.
In Scotland, on the unremarkable Scruncheon Road, lives an 11-year-old named Liam McPhee. It’s early in the reign of Queen Victoria, and Liam’s mother, Fiona, works at a corner bakery, just below a bookstore. The boy’s life is idyllic, as he and his friends—Sally Sutherland (who’s almost 10) and Izzy Flett and Mhairi MacDougal (both 8)—spend their days collecting shells at the seashore and listening to fabulous tales of the fae world. One day, the children find a tunnel entrance among the shoreline rocks. Deep within the tunnel, they come upon an iron foundry. An ironmonger named Hammity Drudge is building a ship for pirate Rico Sauleri. Though the black-hearted men hear the children spying, Liam and company escape. Later, they travel with the enchanted Ragpicker to the realm of Tir Na n’Og to meet the Faery Queen Luminata. Rico and Drudge, meanwhile, sail the newly finished Maisterful into the Black Causeway, where the Dark Faeries rule. They make a deal with Glaistig, the Dark Faery Queen, to steal and hold for ransom all of Scotland’s laughter. Little do the villains realize that a brave band of imaginative children stands ready to halt them. In this boisterous story, Evangeline casts a wide array of mythological creatures—including Waterbulls and Banshees—in an adventurous pageant through Victorian Scotland. Early on, animated prose conveys the joyful nation that would vanish if laughter were stolen (“The cluster of celestial children seemed more of the air than the earth, delicate, as if splendid light t’were let loose”). The plot, which comes to revolve around the magical Dunvegan Cup, remains as straightforward and colorful as a soccer match—at least until the game is essentially won, and Glaistig unleashes further forces of evil. Adults who devour lengthy series like Percy Jackson should encounter much to like here. But Evangeline’s core audience may find a novel that buzzes with so many characters and creatures and so much action a bit challenging.
A magic tale that offers fun for young readers, but skews toward adults in scope.