Review: Shadows Of Winterspell by Amy Wilson.
There’s a magical boundary, just at the point where our fence divides the garden from the green marshland that leads to Winterspell, and the creatures in the forest don’t cross it, but sometimes I hear them at night, faint whispers of parties, the clamour of hooves, the high-pitched call of fierce, flying things.
(Shadows Of Winterspell by Amy Wilson. P8.)
Stella is lonely and she is tired of hiding. She has lived in fear of Winterspell Forest for too long, kept safe from its shadows by her ghost Nan’s rules. Now Stella is determined that she is putting herself out there. And that begins with going to school.
Unfortunately, she happens to pick just the sort of school her Nan would be afraid of – one where students with any hint of magic share special lessons in Fae history and craft once a week after school. It is here that Stella first hears the legend of The Lost Prince and realises that there is more to her own family story than her Nan ever let on.
The darkness which holds Winterspell was created by Stella’s father, the Shadowking, and only Stella can release the forest from its hold.
Amy Wilson, the author of three previous novels, is back with another lyrical fantasy. Her work has impressed me over the years for its understated magic systems and its clear attention to language. Winterspell is no different.
The other thing which Wilson’s novels have held in common is that the protagonists often have a complex relationship with school. They rarely shun education and learning, but often don’t quite fit inside the system. This book is a little different in that Stella desperately wants to go to school. She loves making friends and socialising but her right to access this is complicated by her family history and the fae politics of Winterspell. Wilson’s work shows that fitting in can be a challenge but by being unafraid we can gain so very much from other people.
While the magic of this world was more conventional than in, say, A Faraway Magic, Wilson used it to create something very much her own. This is a world of faeries and centaurs and sprites. It is also a world held under the shadow magic of a raging king. Throughout the book, Top-Trumps style card pages help the reader to keep track of the different inhabitants of the forest and to compare their different magical powers.
Friendship and family play an important part in the story. My favourite character this time was Nan, who has lingered as a ghost to raise her grandchild. From the very first page, I cared deeply about Nan’s connections to the world and wanted to know whether she would remain beyond the story to continue raising her grandchild. I am currently grieving for my mother and I forever berate myself for not meeting my mother’s standards in day-to-day tasks. So often I know what she would say without thinking. It made the idea of being raised by a ghost not only relatable but intriguing.
The language in this book is, as ever, rhythmic and beautiful. It feels as if the story itself is a form of magic that conjures the world of Winterspell into being.
An exciting and beautiful story. Amy Wilson’s work continues to be imaginative and creative and every new novel is a treat.
Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for my copy of Winterspell. Opinions my own.