Book Title: Invisible in a Bright Light (available here)
Author: Sally Garnder
Publication Date: October 2019
Most Suitable For: Upper KS2/Lower KS3
Phantom of the Opera meets Alice in Wonderland in prizewinning author Sally Gardner's first middle-grade novel in 14 years.
Celeste is the lowest of the theatre workers in the Royal Opera House, a mere orphan whose job it is to run errands for everybody else. One day, Celeste wakes up in a costume basket to realise that everyone else in the opera house seems to think that she is somebody else - a talented young dancer preparing for a stage performance. Utterly confused, Celeste also remembers fragments of a strange dream from the night before; a man in an emerald green suit, a devastating shipwreck and a dangerous game called the Reckoning, in which she is a player.
The same day, a crystal chandelier in the shape of a galleon comes crashing down from the ceiling in the opera house, causing Celeste to become too injured to dance on stage as expected. After the accident, a series of clues about Celeste's true identity begins to emerge, including the appearance of a ghost-like girl who seems to know more about Celeste's past and an increasing realisation that Celeste is part of a high-stakes game to which she does not know the rules. A labyrinthine mystery unfolds - with elements of the surreal giving the whole plot a dream-like quality that keeps readers on their toes until the very end.
I enjoyed the opera house setting, complete with its prima donnas, colourful costumes and sham effects. I also enjoyed the steady unravelling of the plot, cleverly moving the reader from initial disorientation and confusion to piece together the answer to Celeste's mystery step by tiny step. The story is quite dark in places and takes good reading stamina to move through the parts that feel surreal, making it most suitable for confident readers in upper KS2 or lower KS3 who can cope with feeling a little disorientated as a mystery unravels.
Intriguing, haunting and filled with suspense, this story will transport readers right to the gutter of time and back again and is one to recommend to those who love an other-worldly read or who are looking for something a little bit different to get stuck into.
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