A fantasy based in Caribbean folklore.
Corinne La Mer is a brave 11-year-old growing up on a Caribbean island. On All Hallow’s Eve, when a pair of troublemaking brothers tie her deceased mother’s prized necklace to a wild animal, Corinne chases the animal into the forest to retrieve it. However, this is no ordinary forest: It’s known for being the abode of “jumbies,” creatures “hidden in the shadows, always waiting for their moment to attack.” Though Corinne doesn’t believe in them, a jumbie follows her out of the forest. The third-person narration tells the back story—in bits and pieces—of this jumbie, who reveals herself to be Corinne’s mother’s sister. It’s never satisfactorily explained why Severine (as Corinne’s jumbie aunt calls herself) seeks out her niece, nearly a decade after her sister’s death. In order to fight Severine—who, sympathetically, only wants a family but is bent on turning humans to jumbies to get one—Corinne must rely not only on her own strength, but that of newfound friends. The novel is based on a Haitian folk tale, according to the author’s note, and it’s refreshing to see a fantasy with its roots outside Europe. Baptiste never quite manages to control the story’s pacing, though, and certain elements in the ending feel arbitrary.
Despite flaws, this is a book worth reading simply for its originality. (Fantasy. 9-12)