on 5 August 2011
My 7 year old daughter chose this book herself and I would agree with the reviews that say the blurb on the back is misleading. As other reviews have mentioned there is no mention of the dark nature of the book which would help parents and readers alike chose appropriately - I myself was shocked as the story developed, but my daughter thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to get the others in the series. My daughter happily watches Dr Who, and reads and watches Harry Potter without nightmares or being scared, so I would say that if your child is happy with those types of things then they will be ok with this book. My daughter is a competent reader, but struggled with some of the Victorian language and benefitted from me reading some of it to her so I could explain what some bits meant. I liked that fact that the subject matter of book was different and more challenging than a lot of the books written for young girls.
on 20 February 2010
Rose is an orphanage girl and she discovers that she has magical powers, when she is working for Mr Fountain, who is chief magician to the king. This is the first book in the series of Rose's magical adventures and I think it is is based in Victorian times.
I thought that this book was a wonderful book to read on your own (if you're a good reader). I also really enjoyed my mum reading it to me. I could hardly wait to find out what happened next each evening.
I would recommend this book for girls aged 7 and over who like historical, magical or adventure books.
Reviewed by a girl aged 7 (Year 3)
on 27 April 2013
Just my kind of book! Rose owes something to Sophie of Howl's Moving Castle (Dianna Wynne Jones) in terms of character - she is unwittingly magical and of a practical nature. I loved this book and I am 41 but I originally selected it for my Year 5 and 6 class at school as I am lucky enough to be a teaching assistant and one of the school librarians as well. As far as I'm concerned this book ticks all the boxes for older (primary) girls. It is pink on the outside but has those magical ingredients of orphans, maids in pseudo-Victorian/Edwardian villas, hardship and heartbreaking backgrounds, a resourceful female protagonist, some good writing and lovely scene-setting and a dash of magic thrown in. My attention was grabbed in the first few pages and the book held its grip on me 'til the end. Lovely stuff. It is not a difficult read for the age group it is aimed at (9-12), but it is a worthwhile one. For those who have commented about it being too scary - well it is not a Holly Webb animal series book. Save those dog and kitten ones for your under eights. I have a six year old and wont be intoducing her to this for quite a while yet. But this doen't make it a bad book. It is a great read.
There are lots of young reader books out there right now that feature a spunky orphan heroine discovering that she has special, maybe magical, abilities. Many of them are quite good, but many also observe all of the conventions without really catching fire or truly engaging the reader. Well, this strikes me as one of the very good ones. At least to my mind this is a volume that should be high on one's "to try" list. Here's why.
Ms. Webb devotes a lot of energy and a big part of the beginning of the book to introducing us to Rose and getting us invested in her progress and her success. We start out at the orphanage, where we first meet Rose. This is not a grim, horrible place. It is, like the entire book, sustained by a general mood of kindness and gentleness, tempered by necessary austerity. Rose is smart and diligent. Not distracted by dreams of being adopted by a wealthy family, she is content to strive for a life of independence and hard work, but on her own terms. She is practical and realistic, but still girlish and optimistic. We see that in her interactions with other orphans, her dealings with the orphanage administrators and her extended inner monologues. We get to know and like and admire Rose. And Ms. Webb earns that by writing clearly and creatively about her heroine, (not just showing that she is "spunky" through a lazy short cut like Rose has freckles and red hair, which by the way she doesn't.).
Rose is plucked from the orphanage by the housekeeper of a famous alchemist, in order to take the position of second housekeeper in his household. This serves to introduce Rose to the world of magic, the complex mix of people who make up the alchemist's household, and the possibility that Rose has some natural magical abilities. Again, before dashing off into some half-baked adventure, Ms. Webb devotes considerable attention to describing the alchemist's household and all those who populate it. She sketches in the role that magic plays in this alternate Victorian world. She builds our understanding of Rose's character while filling in all of these background details. (And the details are very elegant. On her first Sunday Rose is taken to the church that all of the alchemists and magicians attend. Each stained glass window has been animated by magic donated by magician families, and the kids while away time watching the stories in the windows unfold.)
Indeed, for fully more than half of this first volume in a series we are reading something like a middle grade Downton Abbey with magic rather than just a kid's wizard adventure. And, because Rose is so engaging and because all of the other characters, who are affectionately sketched in, are so interesting one doesn't mind that the action consists of small events, hints and clues.
Once the adventure begins, (children are disappearing from the streets), and Rose is called to action, the plot develops briskly and cleanly and the resolution is satisfying, if a bit pat. Since we're talking about magical kids in a book for middle graders I don't quite see the point of quibbling over plot holes.
The upshot is that this a carefully written, engaging, imaginative growing up tale with magic, a smart-mouth talking cat, suspense, a fine supporting cast and a winning and wise heroine. What a nice find.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.