Effie Truelove’s grandfather Griffin Truelove refuses to teach her to do magic, until it’s too late. When Effie needs magic and all the friends she can find to protect her grandfather’s library from the Diberi, evil users of twisted magic, she does find the friends, but the magic is a little tricky. Effie and her newfound friends—Maximilian, Wolf, Lexy, and Raven—must fight off the Diberi both in this world and in the Otherworld, and Effie must find her own way through the most important book that her grandfather gave her, a book called Dragon’s Green.
The world-building in this first book in a series called Worldquake is a little complicated, and I’m not sure I got it all. But what I did get, I liked. There are magical books, and Spectacles of Knowledge, and a ring of power, and portals to Otherworld, and dragons, and princesses, and liminals (not sure about that one), and boons, and magical currency that only works in the Otherworld. That’s just a sampling of all the concepts and magical rules and properties that have to be understood to get through Dragon’s Green. As I said, it’s complicated.
And yet, I enjoyed the complications. I think the story could have been stretched, explained and slowed down a little, but I often think that while reading modern fantasy. Tolkien and Nesbit and George Macdonald took their world-building at a lot more leisurely pace, uninfluenced by movies and TV. I wish the television pace could stay on TV and that books could be books instead of movies-in-the-making. However . . .
I did like the writing in this middle grade novel. Here are a few samples of Ms. Thomas’s vivid descriptions and explanations:
“Mrs. Beathag Hide was exactly the kind of teacher who gives children nightmares. She was tall and thin, and her extraordinarily long fingers were like sharp twigs on a poisonous tree. She wore black turtleneck sweaters that made her head look like a planet being slowly ejected from a hostile universe, and heavy tweed suits in strange, otherworldly pinks and reds that made her face look as pale as a cold moon.”
“The dragon . . . noticed Effie, and started. He looked at her rather the way you might look at a pepperoni pizza when you were sure you had ordered a margherita. He blinked and looked again, taking her in, up and down and up and down, until he took a step back and frowned. The piano music continued as if this were the most elegant restaurant, rather than an appointment with death.”
“Odile Underwood had tried very hard to keep magic from her son. For a start, she had called him Maximiliam, which she had felt to be quite an unmagical name. She had also made sure they lived in the least magical place imaginable. A bungalow by the sea (but with no sea view). What could be less magical than that? Maybe a semi-detached on a new housing estate, but the bungalow had at least been cheap.”
Final verdict: I like it, and I would like to continue the story with the next book in this series, The Chosen Ones (publication date: May 29, 2018).
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This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.