Book Title: Shadows of Winterspell (available here)
Author: Amy Wilson
Publication Date: October 2019
Most Suitable For: Upper KS2/Lower KS3
A coming-of-age adventure story rooted in fairy tale and magic. As usual, Amy Wilson's world-building is second to none as she immerses the reader is a richly-imagined magical world that is at once convincing, delightful and darkly enticing.
Stella feels alone, living most of her life with her Nan in a cottage near the edge of a magical forest. The forest is filled with dangers and haunted by the dark shadows released by the King, who is in mourning after a family loss that occurred years before. Stella helps her Nan to guard the house boundary and stop the dark magic from expanding further. Armed with books, Stella has grown up learning charms, spells and the history of magic and has an imp called Peg for company, but feels a pull towards the unfamiliar worlds beyond the fence.
Tired of being isolated from the human world, Stella secretly signs up to go to school in a nearby town. While Nan disapproves of Stella keeping company with humans, Stella arrives at school and quickly realises that some of her new classmates are not quite what she expected. Before long, Stella finds herself caught up in a complex quest to save the forest from the King's shadows and to uncover the secrets of her own past.
Wilson's depiction of Stella as a young teen who struggles with isolation and identity will resonate with any readers who have known a longing to find their place in the world. Stella feels stuck on boundary lines of all types - from her age on the cusp of adolescence and her physical home on the edge of the forest border to her sense of being caught between magic and human worlds, all brilliantly capturing the feeling of finding oneself somewhere between thresholds and never firmly on any side - a feeling that will may seem familiar to readers in upper KS2.
The forest is an enticing setting - frosty, dark and dangerous but also filled with beauty. Rightly concerned for the way their environment is being destroyed by the King's shadows, the array of magical creatures unite in their fight to free their home. Fairy tale imagery is peppered through the pages; grandmothers in forest cottages, shiny red apples, elves and fairies in underground homes, hidden-from-sight palaces and necklaces imbued with magic all seamlessly weave in and out of the book's modern, relatable themes.
Suitable for upper KS2 and lower KS3, this is a refined piece of storytelling that encourages young readers to be brave and follow their own paths.
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Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book.
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