Reading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Size: 320 pages
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an advanced copy of this book for review from the publisher. It was a wonderful book, beautiful and poignant, I enjoyed it a lot. The advanced reading copy itself is one of the nicest I have ever received with beautiful embossing, raw page egdes, and wonderful pictures.
Liesl is locked in the attic by her evil stepmother after her father dies. Her only friends are her drawings; that is until a ghost named Po appears and helps her to escape. Little does Lisle know that her escape entwines her fate with the fate of a boy named Will. Will is an alcemist’s apprentice and has accidentally mixed up the box containing Liesl’s father’s ashes and a box containing the greatest magic ever made. Liesl is on a quest to bury her father’s ashes at their old country home, but unknowingly is carrying around a great magic. Will, Po, and Liesl will end up on a great adventure, dodging danger, and learning how to live and how to say good-bye to those who we have lost.
This was an excellent book. It takes place in Victorian times and has that dark tone to it; it’s been many years since anyone has seen the sun. The pictures reflect this and are absolutely beautiful; they add a lot to this story.
Lauren Oliver has a forward in this book talking about how she wrote this after a good friend’s death, that definitely reflects in the story. Liesl is struggling with her father’s death and much of this story touches on how we can let go of someone we loved so much and how to say good-bye. It also asks questions about what happens after death.
Liesl is an excellent character; she is so accepting of her situation as horrible as it is. When an opportunity presents itself to escape though, she goes for it and embarks on a wonderful adventure. Po and his pet, Bundle, are mysterious and interesting characters…they are both neither female or male they just are.
I love how Liesl’s and Will’s stories weave in and out of each other and eventually entwine, the plot is cleverly done and makes the book hard to put down. I read this book in one night; I just couldn’t stop.
There is a lot of a fairy tale feel to this book too; Liesl has an evil stepmother, there are mix-ups of boxes, and magic is unleashed upon the world. I love how Liesl accepting her father’s death also relates to the box of the most powerful magic in the world.
The book ties up beautifully. It was a very good read. The only thing I wanted a bit more of was description so that I could really imagine the surroundings in my mind; but that’s a small thing…overall I really enjoyed the story.
Overall a beautiful and poignant story that is full of adventure and magic, but also touches on serious topics of death and what happens after death. The setting is bleak put there are points of hope and sunniness throughout. The characters will capture your heart and the plot is so engaging it makes the book impossible to put down. I can’t wait to read some of Oliver’s other books. She writes such a wide breadth of different types of books. I think anyone who enjoys historical fantasties age middle grade or older will enjoy this book. If you enjoy this book I would also recommend The Clockwork Three by Mathew Kirby, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins.