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4.6 out of 5 stars14
4.6 out of 5 stars
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After reading really good reviews for this book, I decided I had to see if they were justified. Having now just frinished the book, I can happily say that every positive review this book gets is fully deserved.

The story is about 3 children; Ryan, Josh and Chelle. One evening they miss their buss home. Without any money for another fare, they go to extreme lengths, stealing money from an old wishing well. It is then not long afterwards that strange things start happening - Ryan has unusual growths on his hands; Josh seems to make lightbulbs explode whenever he is near; and Chelle cannot stop barrages of words from spilling out of her mouth, even though the words do not belong to her. The Ryan is visited by the Well Witch, a weird lady who has water gushing from her eyes and hides the words she speaks. From a mixture of guesswork and luck, the kids are able to help Ryan in establishing what she was after - she wants them to grant the wishes that they have taken from her well. Sounds simple enough in some ways, but unfortunately they soon learn that wishes are complex things, you never quite know what may be hidden behind the words - after all, the people that made them are complex, with different motives and desires urging them on. Soon, the business of granting wishes becomes more like a curse for the youngsters, but how do they get out of the debt of a Well Witch?

Although I am in my late twenties, I do enjoy literature for young adults and children. This, the first book I have read by Hardinge, was a breath of fresh air. Although there is a magical element it is quite different to what you will have encountered in the favourites such as Harry Potter. The three main characters are well developed - I particularly liked Chelle, who develops as the novel progresses. Each of the characters had their own problems or issues, and how these benefit the main story is very well done. There is comedy, friendship, betrayal, the darker side of humans and what they wish for and the consequences that this will then bring.
This is a highly recommended book, for both young and old.
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on 12 May 2007
This is a story about dreams and hopes, about trying to do the right thing and how that might not always work out the way you expected. This a darker novel than "Fly by Night", set in the here and now. The world unravels for three teenagers when they miss their bus home and the supernatural begins to impinge.

Hardinge is a consummate wordsmith, her writing contains beautifully observed wry turns of phrase that will strike a chord with adult and teen readers alike. Another innovative, finely crafted book from one of Britain's most talented writers.
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on 18 June 2007
This is the first novel by this author that I have read, but it will certainly not be the last. Oh my gosh is it addictive! I have recommended it to all and sundry. The twists and turns are clever and keep the plot moving forward rather than holding it back.

For all those Harry Potter addicts (like me) who are stuck for something to read after book 7, I suggest you start with Verdigris Deep and move on from there. Sheer brilliance.
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on 12 July 2007
Perhaps a little put off by the 'blurb' on this book, I gave it a try after I read a decent review and was amazed.

This book is utterly compelling: a real un-put-downable masterpiece that is unlike any other fantasy book for young people that I have ever read.

The characters have real depth, the situation is original and the pace is breathtaking.

If you want to buy a book that you can't put down, that doesn't talk down to the reader and that tells a really gripping story, then this book is for you!
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on 25 March 2015
QUICK BIT ABOUT PLOT WITHOUT GIVING TOO MUCH AWAY: three children steal a coin from a wishing well in order to get the bus home, but the witch who inhabits the well doesn't take kindly to their theft. The three children end up having to grant the wishes themselves, and they take on mysterious and often horrible magical traits to help them complete the task - traits which link to their personalities and which begin to change them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The story is about the relationship between the children, as much as anything, and about the process of growing up and learning to accept yourself. It is also about magic, parenthood and families. Firmly set in the modern world, it is also about an ancient and creepy magic.

I'm not quite sure that the reviewer, Mr L.C.Williams, was reading the same book as I read! I admit that I didn't find this book as good as Hardinge's stories set in entirely fictional words such as 'Fly By Night', 'Twilight Robbery' or 'A Face Like lass' (all of which I recommend to Mr Williams), but nevertheless it was still an excellent example of children's fiction. The characters were depicted in a realistic way, I thought, being distinctive and certainly reminding me of my own childhood and of children I know. It is true that there are places in the first few chapters where the dialogue seems to jump about or bits seem to be skimmed over, but I think this is showing faith in the readers' ability to follow a story that isn't ploddingly narrated. It is well-paced and atmospheric, with a keen sense of sinister goings-on, and it doesn't shy away from serious issues like the death of a baby, for instance. The witch is imaginatively portrayed, and the children are vivid and convincing. There are also several amusing minor characters. The novel reminded me very much of Diana Wynne Jones.
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Frances Hardinge is a genius writer of fantasy fiction for teens, and people like me, who despite being way, way out of their teens still appreciate fantastic writing and gripping storylines. All of Hardinge's books are fantastic, and this is no exception. Unlike her other books, which can be classified more as straight fantasy fiction, this book has an element of the horror story in it. I was very dubious about this at first, but it worked brilliantly and Hardinge's writing carries an air of palpable menace and tension which make this book utterly compelling to read.

Josh, Ryan and Chelle are three teenage friends. They hang out together with Josh their undisputed and heroic ring leader. One evening in the summer holidays they are playing on some abandoned ground and lose their bus fare home. Josh discovers a disused well, and takes some money from its depths, where it has been clearly used as a wishing well, to help them get home.

Their disturbance of the well water leads them into a suspenseful, magical adventure with a well goddess who is displeased that the children have taken her tribute, and who gives them the means to make the wishes of the people who put the money in there come true. At first this seems like an entirely benevolent thing, but things soon take a dark twist and the powers that she has given them become a dangerous burden.
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Ryan, Josh and Chelle are friends who slip off into a nearby town for an illict picnic. But when they stay for an extra milkshake they miss their return bus and don't have enough money to get home. Josh comes up with the idea of taking coins from an abandoned wishing well to cover the fare. Although they get home okay, weird things start to happen. Ryan develops a series of bumps on his knuckles that look like eyeballs and he sees things that no one else can see. Chelle is compelled to recite the words going through the mind of other people. Light bulbs begin to explode around Josh.

Then the well witch appears - a strange and powerful creature determined to punish the children who stole from her. She demands that they work for her by granting the wishes of the people who threw in the coins. This is no straightforward task though because the wishes have been rotting in the well for a long time and the friends discover that they're part of the well witch's twisted world - a world that is threatening to claim the children for itself.

This is a weird, gripping and macabre story with plenty of depth and twists and turns to keep the pages turning.

The story is told through Ryan's eyes and while he's likeable character he's also flawed - specifically he realises that his intelligence makes him a target and relies on Josh to protect him from school bullies, which makes him slow to wake up to Josh's faults. In fact the relationship between all three children is very believable - the boys are closer to each other than to Chelle and she is aware of her status but grateful to have people to hang out with.

Josh is an interesting counterpoint and while his adoptive status and resulting insecurity seems a little cliché, the motivation for his subsequent actions is credible and his manipulation of the people around him really creepy. The resolution of his storyline is bittersweet but entirely fitting.

There are some marvellous set pieces within the book - particularly the appearances of the well witch which are spectacular pieces of writing. There's also a dark undercurrent to this with a lot of sadness and some unexpected turns.

Hardinge is a wonderful writer and I'll definitely be seeking out other examples of her work.
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on 20 July 2014
The secret author Frances Hardinge has hit it again. How is this woman who’s written these astounding Weird books for kids(ish) keep going unnoticed? Three children steal coins from a wishing well so they can get home on time. These children are all going through normal coming-of-age problems, but they’re about to get a whole host of others. Dark. Disturbing. Terrifying and emotional and gripping. Hardinge’s dizzying imagination unfolds a deep, dark mystery inside the wishing well and inside the wounded heart of a child. The sort of book you want to read late with a torch under the covers.
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on 26 May 2016
Another brilliant book from Frances Hardinge. Set in a contemporary setting yet still with enough weirdness to satisfy any of her fans. I will never look at a supermarket trolley in quite the same way again
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...that tarnishes ageing and forgotten copper coins, altering them entirely...."

Throwing coins in a wishing well
And making a wish
It seems so simple
But have you ever spared a thought
For the coins?

Lying for eternity under the water
Among the slime and leaves
Forgotten by all but the verdigris
And of course the Well Witch
`Cos she's real

Three children find out the hard way
Short on bus fare
They dare to disturb the rusty rest
Of the coins, and naturally
The Well Witch

A price must be paid for their crime
He who takes the coin
Must grant the wish
Like verdigris, they become
Altered entirely

But, the tricky thing about wishes
Is that you can't just
Take them at face value
Because people don't always wish for what
They REALLY want

This book works at many levels
The characters
So cleverly developed
The plot so fiendishly crafted
I have goosebumps

Before introducing your child
To Stephen King
Lead them to
The murky waters and rotting wishes
Of the well

(Recommended for kids from 12 yrs to 99 yrs)

See also: Fly by Night by the same author

Amanda Richards
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