Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A most magical girl by Karen Foxlee

"the Morever Wand must be retrieved form its hidden resting place in Under London by the youngest and most able member of the society; preferably, a most magical girl."

A most magical girl is short listed for our CBCA Awards this year.  I am fairly sure it will receive a prize - yes it is that good.  You will feel at times that you are drowning in a cold underground river, crawling into tiny spaces, hiding from an enormous hungry dragon and smelling the rotting food hoarded by trolls.  You will also grimace as the evil maniac Mr. Angel feeds his Dark-Magic extracting machine all manner of sadness and horror from the fog filled streets of Victorian London.

You can read about the plot of this book on some of the links to reviews below.  I thought it might be more useful if I share some text quotes which will show you aspects of this writing.

Detailed character descriptions :

Kitty - "Her head was held low, a furious frown upon her face, and there was not an inch of tidiness to her. Her wet black curls were tied roughly with a piece of twine, and a brown leaf dangled on a strand beside her ear."

Mr. Angel the wizard - "He had very dark eyes, which were sad, probably the saddest eyes she had ever seen, with very long lashes. He had a largish nose and a mouth that was rather lopsided, one side sneering, one side melancholy. ... He was sad and lonely-looking. He was wicked-looking."

"three shadowlings ... dreadful things, made of nothing yet brimming with wickedness, sleeping shadows bought to life with his dark magic."

All manner of smells permeate this story :

"Hafwen smelled of the earth and unwashed clothes and deep dark places, and for reasons Annabel did not understand, this was comforting."

You can really see the scenes and I do think this book would make a fabulous movie :

"It was a mean street, the buildings leaning, holding each other up like a mouthful of rotten teeth."

"Outside, she could hear London : horses' hooves and carriage wheels, the lowing of cattle and ... somewhere, someone wailing."

"Then the broomstick stopped. ... Then it shot forward at great speed. ... It hurled through a church nave door and careered back out again. It skidded beneath a bridge. It fishtailed between factory smokestacks. ... It hit the window, and the glass fell apart in great shards around them ... "

Little touches of humor:

"Surely they shouldn't be outside in such weather.  She'd catch a cold and take ill. A physician would be called for, and he'd say that nothing could be done.  Her story would be serialized in the Illustrated London News ... There would be illustrations."

"Annabel had played shuttlecock with Isabelle Rutherford ... Surely hitting a light orb was no different."

Chapter Headings 

One of the parts of this book that I absolutely adore are the little chapter headings - quotes from Miss Finch's Little Blue Book (1855).

"A young lady rises early, opens her windows, and delights in the pleasures of an industrious day." Chapter 2

"In education, geography is harmless, but too much history and politics can lead to a quarrelsome nature." Chapter 5

"No matter the heat, a young lady shall not remove her gloves in the ballroom." Chapter 17

The idea of drawing the map of Under London on Annabel's skin is also ingenious.

Here is a little warning.  At about page 270 I realised everything was not going to be resolved for Annabel and her wonderful betwixter friend Kitty and that I was going to have to wait for the sequel. I do hope Karen Foxlee has a plan for this but I cannot find any details yet.

I have already talked about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. I think A most magical girl is an even better book.  The tension is well maintained and the plot keeps moving swiftly. You will cheer for Annabel as she overcomes huge obstacles and shows great kindness especially towards the little troll Hafwen.

There are three double page illustrations in this book which mark the sections as the Dark Magic Gauge gains power.  I really like these dark illustrations and the front cover by Canadian Elly MacKay.

After reading A most magical girl I recommend you look for The book without Words, A very unusual pursuit, Barnaby Grimes and the curse of the night wolf, and Rooftoppers.

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