In Lewis-Lerman’s debut YA fantasy, magical adventures begin for a young girl when her friend grows terribly ill and she becomes determined to save her.
Livi Dixon is worried for her best friend Violet’s life. Recently, she has been growing sicker, and Livi suspects that Mathilda Battlebee—the very woman who has been trying to save her—might be responsible. After all, rumors have abounded for years that Mathilda is a witch and a spy, but Livi soon learns that appearances can be deceiving. Meanwhile, many other strange things have been happening, such as people disappearing with no explanation. Amid all of this, Livi sets off on a quest to an area of the nation called the Midlands, whose people might be able to help cure Violet. The primary strength of Lewis-Lerman’s novel is the richly detailed world in which it’s set—not an archaic, medieval world or a modern-day one, but somewhere in between. Reminiscent of the work of Diana Wynne Jones, the novel interweaves its universe with a clever sense of whimsy that marries magic and fairy tale with modern sensibilities. Livi is a strong, empathetic protagonist whose hero’s journey unfolds in a decidedly untraditional manner, particularly when she discovers a power she never knew she possessed. Other than that, the novel suffers from some pacing and plotting issues, with various threads threatening to pull the story in too many different directions. At the same time, however, it’s a testament to Lewis-Lerman’s rich imagination and eloquent prose that more often than not, her novel delights enough to smooth over these distractions.
Could be the start of a fantastic series if, along with a few improvements, the characters and world remain this solid.