The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet

This debut fantasy novel for middle grade readers has several things going for it. It’s set in Paris, and the main character, Maya, is a spunky, intelligent twelve year old with an oddly charismatic little brother named James. And the book has salamanders and a creepy beautiful glass-fronted cabinet. Maya is supposed to become the new Keeper of the Cabinet. The atmosphere reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe updated to the twenty-first century and with children.

However, the story took a long time to unwind until finally in chapter 11 (page 142) we learn “What Cabinet Keepers Keep.” I think you could condense the story into an episode of Once Upon a Time (our current favorite TV show which is back for a second season, yeah!), and it would work better. The book isn’t particularly long, only 256 pages, but it just seems s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d, if that makes sense. That said, I did like it, and I thought the ending was great.

Some people, including author Alexander McCall Smith, have been using the hashtag #10Wordbooks on twitter to share 10 word descriptions of their favorite novels and plays. You can check it out if you’re on Twitter; it’s kind of fun. Here are a couple of samples:

@text_publishing: JANE EYRE: ‘What’s that noise from the attic, Mr Rochester?’ ‘Nothing, darling.’ #10wordbooks
@semicolonblog Gone With the Wind: Scarlett loves Scarlett, thinks she loves Ashley, Rhett loves Scarlett. #10wordbooks
@mccallsmith One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in ten words: Story of inmates of psychiatric institution; warning – may contain nuts.#10wordbooks

The Cabinet of Earths 10 word description: Paris. Science and magic, tangled. Immortality, rejected. Salamanders are amphibious.

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