Stella lives almost alone at the edge of Winterspell forest, since the death of her mother from a plague and her fathers devastating grief which turned him into an unrecognizable shadow. Raised by her grandmothers ghost and an imp called Peg, her loneliness leads her to go to school in the human world, desperate for some kind of life and friendship. But she soon learns that the curse on the forest desperately needs to be lifted, and she’s the only one who can do it.
This book is children’s fantasy and Stella is about 13. The cover illustration is so pretty, with it’s silver foil and pretty forest image. It has some texture on it too where the light comes through the trees. So pretty. The book also has a map, a lovely stag decoration at the start of the chapters, and pages with illustrations that are like bio pages for the different types of creatures that live in the Winterspell Forest. It’s such a lovely little book,
Amy Wilson weaves a wonderful tale. I really like how she’s drawn on traditional fairytale creatures and mixed them with the modern. I loved the world she created, with it’s beautiful forest and the fascinating home that Stella lives in. As a child, children’s fantasy was one of my favourite genres, and this book feels fresh and modern, but also harks back to some great fantasy traditions. Reading this as an adult, I enjoyed it. I’m sure many young readers or adults reading it to their kids will enjoy it too.
Stella is a really likable lead. She’s cheerful and brave, and curious. But also aware that she has a lot to learn and has some secrets to keep, at least for now. I love the image of her growing up with a “ghost nan” who is sometimes a physical presence and sometimes not. Peg is also a fascinating character, as an imp who can change shape and is full os secrets and magic and mischief.
At the centre of the novel are relationships. Stella makes friends with two people at her school, Zara, a human who thinks magic might be real (and will soon find out it is) and Yanny, who lives in the forest and may have magic in his veins. They’re nicely drawn characters and you can’t help but care about them and feel for them, with their different troubles. They make a nice trio. Together, they can fight the shadows in the forest.
Though Stella goes off to school, it’s her breaking out that is the stage of the book. It’s not a Harry Potter type story. The forest looms over everything and is perhaps the main stage of the story, and I love that.
I really enjoyed this book. It was like a step back into books I loved as a kid, like The Faraway Tree or The Kingdom of Carbonel, with their magic and fairies and forests, and some really interesting characters. Those are real children’s classics, and perhaps this book isn’t way up there with those, but I liked it a lot.
Read It If: this one is children’s fantasy, so it’s a great read for middle greade kids coming of age who love magic and fairytale elements.
Thank you so much PGC Books for the copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own honest thoughts.
Shadows Of Winterspell is out now.