I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review (bloody ages ago – I’m so sorry it’s taken so long!) All views and opinions are my own.
Shadows of Winterspell by Amy Wilson
This took me far too long to get round to reading! I’d requested it because I really enjoyed Snowglobe by the same author last year, but knew next to nothing about it until I read Lily’s review of it earlier this month. Like Lily, I was uncertain about the contemporary aspects, but trusted that if she’d still enjoyed it I probably would too! And I did!
Stella lives with her (ghost) Nan and Nan’s familiar Peg in a house protected by multiple charms just outside the forest of Winterspell.
The dark and dangerous shadows set loose in Winterspell by Stella’s father mean its not safe to venture in there, do Stella is cut off from the other Fae that live there. And she has no contact with the human community nearby either.
Lonely, and with a streak of almost-adolescent rebellion, Stella enrols at school to try to find her place, to fit in and find friends.
Amidst the PE bags and pencil cases, assemblies and awkwardness of being the newbie, Stella finds all is not quite as it seems and soon her and her new friends are battling to save Winterspell from her father’s shadows.
I thought the way the contemporary school setting and themes of friendship, loneliness, change, growing up and rebellion were merged with the magical elements of fairy folk, spells, Ghost Nan and glamour was expertly done and both ‘sides’ really complemented and balanced the other.
The way Amy Wilson has captured the spontaneity and determination of a child just starting to rebel, the uncertainty of new friendships and the anxiety and fierce protection of parents/guardians shows real perception and understanding.
Likewise, she utilises the fantasy elements of the story to gently explores loss and grief really effectively, unobtrusively and with great use of symbolism, imagery and metaphor.
And the fantasy elements really make the story come alive, whether through an action-packed, spell-slinging battle, or the humour brought by mischievous imp Peg, or the magical creatures we meet in Winterspell. The Centauride, Rory, especially is magnificent – she seems to embody the power and importance of nature and is one of my favourite characters despite being only a minor one.
This is a story with a fantastic sense of atmosphere and place. The characters are rounded and immensely likeable and believable; Zara especially is brilliant. The pace is kept up, and the balance between fantasy and legend and modernity and real-life is perfect.
A magical story of family and friendship that is full of feeling and gets everything spot on.