DISCLAIMER – I was sent a free copy of this book in return for a fair and unbiased review
‘If any of you can show just cause why these two shall not lawfully be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace.’
When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?
But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.
After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about Ariane, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.
What I thought
The first page tells us so much about Esme as a character and her courage and audacity. She objects at her father’s wedding, literally puts her hand up and says ‘I object’.
I mean that take some serious courage because no much how much you might internally say something and moan about the new marriage but to say something… that says pretty much anything you ever need to know about Esme; the courage and the willingness to go to extreme lengths to do what she feels is right, she’s not one for half measures.
After the wedding and her dad and new wife go on their honeymoon Esme is expecting to be allowed to stay at home by herself for the week (she’s 15) while getting ‘looked in on’ by her grandparents a couple of times but her new step-mum’s sister stays and she is the worst. Constantly getting rid of any reminder of Esme’s mum, any art, or any sign of difference or a a sense of individuality. Plus she continues to pronounce Esme’s name wrong (Es-may, instead of Es-mee), it drive’s Esme to extremes as she tries to work out what her place in her dad’s life is going to be with a step-mum who clearly objects to Esme as much as Esme objects to her. She lives next to a lighthouse on the outskirts of a small village with hardly friends her own age, she’s an outsider and having to reassess everything in her life, no wonder she tries to find out more about her mother and what being lost at sea means.
I really love that our introduction to the world of Esperance is through drawings and paintings. It’s a nice way to tease what’s going to happen but for ‘normal’ people they would just have thought that Esme’s mum was a good artist with an eye for turning the normal into the fantastical. I’ve got fantasy prints and pictures that I love so it’s not unheard of or out of place in our world.
It’s reading books with worlds like Esperance where I wish that I had the ability to see pictures in my mind, because this place sounds beautiful. I imagine it to be like a magical Venice and Venice is already magical so this is extra otherworldly. With dragons.
This is a world with dragons and magic and Gifts (with a capital G) that tend to get passed down through families although not everyone has one. They tend to appear around puberty and although you know what is likely you don’t know for certain what it will be until it appears. Throughout the book Esme’s friend Lillian is desperate to have a specific Gift but is also steeling herself to have no Gift and mentally preparing for that disappointment.
And there are dragons, I can’t do a book review in a world with dragons without touching on just how much I love dragons. They are used to great effect here, a bit like horses in that they are ridden around but not by everyone, they aren’t as smart as in Eragon but they do have their own minds and personalities and are looked after in reservations. They are brought out for festivals and there are enough of them that they aren’t considered a protected species (like in Harry Potter).
Esme quickly gains two new, and best, friends in Esperance. Having left our world with little more than acquaintances she struggles to let them in on what she’s doing and thinking. But she’s learning and she tries, plus they have no problem pulling her up on it. And as she doesn’t want to lose either one of them even though they already has a tense and rocky relationship she’s able to be the glue that pulls them together. Daniel is much more focused on the future and what he wants to do than Lillian, he knows he wants to work with dragons even though his family think it’s too dangerous. Lillian seems less sure and comfortable with that, she just wants to have a Gift for spell-singing but fears that it will never come. They balance out Esme’s rashness and help teach her, and us, what this new world is like.
I’m looking forward to reading the 2nd book in this series and seeing what happens next. After all Esme has to return to our world having been gone a lot longer than planned and I want to know how her dad is going to react to it all and how she get’s back to Esperance.
Why I read it
I read it because I was sent a free copy for review but I was interested because I really enjoy stories where you travel to another world.
I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a great step between MG and YA fiction and an introduction to the fantasy and other-world genre (further than HP and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.)
It’s a slow burn, taking time to get to Esperance and for the plot to move but it feels believable in it’s slow pace. Esme has to acquaint herself with this new world and it’s rules as well as trying to trace her mother’s footsteps. Once you hit the two thirds mark things really start moving and then it doesn’t stop. I saw a lot of the reveals coming but not all of them and I’ll be very happy to return to this world again.
Am I glad I read it? Yes
Did I enjoy it? Yes
Would I read again? Probably, I’m going to read the second one.
Would I recommend? Definitely, it’s a really cute into to fantasy and other worlds for MG/YA readers
I read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago when reading to my own kids reminded me how much I missed getting lost in other worlds. It’s never too late to find and follow your passion! I now have two books published and am about to start writing the third and final story in the Esme series. My home base is Sydney, where I can often be found running (just kidding – walking) by the water, or scribbling in cafés.
As always thank you to Rachel for organising the blog tour and to the author for trusting me with their book.