Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Shadows Of Winterspell by Amy Wilson.

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.

Q & A · Q and A/Author Interview

Q&A: Author Amy Wilson talks Snowglobe, fairytales and creating magical settings.

IMG_E6003The first book I reviewed for BookMurmuration became a lifelong favourite. A Girl Called Owl is a story of frost magic, the search for family-identity and a hidden world where a magical council controls the seasons. 

Amy Wilson has now published three books, each as fantastic as the other. Her latest novel, Snowglobeis a story of three magical sisters, manipulation and the importance of grabbing life with two hands. Like all her novels, it is set in a world with hidden pockets of magic and wonder. 

I am delighted that Amy has agreed to take part in a Q&A about magic and fairytales and all things winter. Her answers will leave you daydreaming and grabbing for a pen to write your own magical tales. It is a pleasure to have Amy here on my blog. BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Your debut novel, A Girl Called Owl, takes us into Jack Frost’s wintery world and your latest story Snowglobe features a room full of magical snowglobes. Why are you drawn to snowy landscapes?

I love the blank page of a snow-filled street. The sense of possibility and magic that comes with all the ordinary being hidden away. And the danger that comes with the beauty feels like such a truth. Many of us are lucky enough that we spend most of our lives cushioned from the harsh extremities of the world. Snow – winter – reminds me that we are still, always, at the mercy of our environment.


Do you have any favourite stories set in snowy worlds? What do you love about these stories?

CS Lewis’ Narnia stands out immediately. I have such a sense of the wild and the cold, and the snap of branches underfoot. The danger, and the suffering of those who need spring so desperately. I love the heart of the characters, the friendship offered when there is little else to give. I’ve recently read The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden and I suppose it seems natural that I would love it, but I LOVED it so much. I loved the old myths and legends, the wilderness, the magic. All of it!


Snowglobe and A Far Away Magic feature houses with magical secrets. The houses are unique to your stories. Please do you have any tips about creating magical houses as settings?

See them as a character. These houses have been around for longer than the characters themselves, and if there is magic in your world, and in your characters, then that magic may have infused the place. See normal things: a kitchen sink, a clock, a chest of drawers, with infinite possibilities. Even a settee is capable of much, in a magical house. And we all know about wardrobes…


The magic in your stories is subtle – other people in the same world may not be aware it exists. Why do write magic in this way?

I want it to be so nearly real that you can truly be there, even if you’re sitting on the train reading. Like shadows in the corners of your eyes, or the mist rolling over the fields in the very early morning that could be more than it looks. Powers that work like a sneeze, or the tingling of skin with a shock. The sensations are real, it’s just a question of taking that one step further, and then wondering, if that did really happen, if I could do things that we believe are impossible, would other people believe it? Or would they just blink and think they’re tired? Would they see it? I think that even if it were real, some people perhaps wouldn’t see it because they don’t open their eyes to see the magic that is in the world, they’ve trained their minds in other ways.


Snow melts shortly after it settles, especially in the UK. If you were given magic to turn a snowflake into an object you could keep, what would that object be? Please can you describe it for us? 

I would turn it into a unicorn – a Pegasus actually, because it would have wings, and we’d travel the world, at night, and have the most incredible adventures. And then one day we’d find a whole heard of snow-Pegasus’ and I’d have to leave her there but every winter she’d come and graze in my garden, and give my children rides up to the stars.


If you could choose any magical power, what would it be and why? 

I’d like to talk with trees. I’d like to hear their voices, to know what they think of the world.


Win a copy of Snowglobe – thanks to the lovely people at Macmillan Children’s Books UK, I have three copies of Snowglobe to give away to readers in the UK or Ireland. Check out my Twitter feed for a chance to win. Competition ends 16.12.2018 at 11.59pm.

A huge thanks to Amy Wilson and Jo Hardacre for your time.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson




There were three sisters, named for Jupiter’s moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Io. As they had blood in their veins, so they had magic, fine and strong as a spider’s web. They lived in a house of white marble, and the tower stretched to the sky and speared the clouds, searching, they said, for the moon. They filled it with miniature worlds, set whole galaxies spinning, caught within glass spheres. And then they hid in their house while the world changed. That was their lot.

(Snowglobe by Amy Wilson.) 



There are three sisters with strong magic, named for Jupiter’s moons – Io, Ganymede and Callisto. Callisto vanished ten years ago, leaving behind a young daughter.

Now Clementine is showing signs of the same magic. When she turns it against the school bully, Clementine faces a short suspension from school. This prompts her to go in search of information about the magic and takes her to the house where the three sisters lived.

The house is filled with magic. Clementine discovers a room full of snowglobes like perfect little worlds. Inside one of those snowglobes is Dylan – a boy from school who never joins in the bullying, but never stands up for Clementine either.

Together they journey through the snowglobe words and hunt for answers about Clementine’s connection to the magic.


A lyrical tale of bullying and individuality. Amy Wilson’s debut novel – A Girl Called Owl – was the first book I reviewed as a blogger. I remember being caught up in the snowy world and being impressed at how the fantasy story linked to the character’s development in the real world. This is Amy Wilson’s third novel and it left me with the same chills. I adore her subtle magic. Her characters weave between everyday situations and the fantastical with ease. Magic isn’t an ordinary part of her worlds, but certain individuals are in touch with special powers and secret realms. Magic is both extraordinary and part of the normal world.

There are some strong themes such as bullying and manipulation. The snowglobes, as well as being beautiful, are slightly sinister. They are used to imprison anyone who disagrees with the sisters. This was a perfect metaphor for manipulation. The prisoners are caught in one person’s view of perfection when their magic belongs in the outside world. It made me think of people who have an idea of how others should think and behave. Everyone needs to be free to explore and share their own personalities.

I liked the friendship between Dylan and Clem. Dylan is the kid who nods along with bullying but doesn’t support it. Clem goes to school every day to harassment and teasing. While she needs to learn not to see the worst in every single person, Dylan needs to assert himself and stand up for what he thinks is right. I liked how there was no blame – both Clem and Dylan need to alter their perspective and both have things to learn.

I also loved the house with its room of snowglobes. Amy Wilson has created magical houses before, and they are unique to anything I have ever seen. They have their own magic and their own secrets and they are so well described I feel as if I have walked through their halls.

A beautiful story to read by the fire. Amy Wilson has confirmed her place as a writer of lyrical and poetic stories.


Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books UK for my proof copy of Snowglobe. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews

Review: A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson



‘A promise can’t change what you are, Bavar,’ she stares at me, and her eyes are bright, and I don’t want to see what is reflected in them. She thinks I can be like them, and still be me, not be a monster.’

(A Faraway Magic by Amy Wilson. P25.)birdSynopsis:

When Angel starts a new school, she doesn’t want to make any friends. She is greiving for her parents, and her old life, and nobody believes her account of the incident that killed them. When she sees Bavar, she knows he isn’t human. 

Bavar wants to disappear. He wants to be like any other boy at school. He lives in a house filled with his ancestor’s shouting voices – portraits and sculptures come to life to admonish him. The house also hides a rift in the world. It is Bavar’s job to stop the raksasa coming through the rift, before any more damage is done. Angel understands about that damage because she has witnessed it firsthand. She wants to fight, but Bavar keeps turning away. 

Angel and Bavar must work out their differences and work together to repair the rift between the two worlds, before more people get hurt.


A Girl Called Owl is one of my favourite books of 2017. A Far Away Magic is darker in tone, but equally magical and gripping. Amy Wilson writes about subtle magic. A door in an old house hides a dark secret, and there is a sense of something lurking at the edge of everyday life. This isn’t in-your-face magic, but magic which prickles your skin.

The dual narrative was interesting. Two characters must reach the same point of understanding, but begin with opposite problems. Angel knows nothing about the power which destroyed her family, but wants to end it. Bavar wants to hide himself from others and pass as normal for as long as possible. I liked how the characters were able to reach an understanding by learning more about the situation. They were unable to change each other, but could come to a new understanding together. At the start Bavar is told that Angel will be his catalyst, but I think the books shows how we all have an impact on each other, and can enable each other to do things which seem impossible alone. 

Angel’s grief is beautifully portrayed. She refuses to acknowledge or show her feelings, and pushes other people away. It was an honest and realistic portrayal of grief, and it fitted in well with the dark shadows and sense of threat. There is no suggestion that Angel should move on from her feelings, but life creeps back into her world and it starts with friendship. 

My big heroine is Bavar’s Aunt Aoife. At the start she appears a bit hippy-dippy, sending him to school with a basket instead of a lunch box, and baking terrible cakes. It becomes clear she is the one who insists Bavar should have a childhood. I love the message at the end: normal can have a thousand different faces. Going to school and not fitting in makes many children feel ‘abnormal’, but good days and bad days and not feeling like you belong are all normal. It is carrying on which is important.

Amy Wilson’s writing is lyrical and deep with meaning, and she is an extraordinary talent. A Far Away Magic is darker in tone than A Girl Called Owl but I love them equally, and I can’t wait to see what else she writes.