Children's Fiction, Fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: The Star Spun Web by Sinead O’Hart

– Short review –

A fast moving fantasy novel for readers 10 to 12 with elements like Philip Pullman’s stories. Follow Tess and her pet tarantula on an amazing adventure through parallel worlds. You will trip along this story from beginning to end spellbound by Sinead O’Hart’s unique turn of phrase.

– Longer Review –

Star Spun Web follows the plight of budding young scientist Tess de Sousa, an orphan living in a house with other orphans. However in this story the orphanage is not portrayed as a bad place to live. On the contrary, Ackerbee’s orphanage it is a refuge and loving home filled with friends and caring grown-ups. The only problem is Tess is pulled from the safe environment at the beginning of the story by a sinister man posing as her rightful legal guardian, with money and power behind him. Tess is apparently the heir to a fortune and is taken away from all her friends to live in a big house where she knows no one but has gifts lavished upon her. Tess believes the letters home are not being delivered, and she strikes up a relationship with the housemaid her same age named Millie.

All is not as things seem. The night that Tess came to the orphanage she was left with a small mysterious object which Miss Ackerbee gives to her on the day she leaves, along with the theory that Tess might not actually be of this world. Using her scientific intellect test begins to explore the object in her new lab away from her friends. She soon discovers that she has an ability when using the device to do a most remarkable thing. This thing connects Tess to other worlds. I will say no more about that because I don’t want to spoil the story for you.

Tess lives in a world very similar to but not quite like our own. In our world, the place she lives would be called Dublin, and the time would be around the Second World War. Sinead O’Hart has a wonderful way of making that world seem both familiar and yet just a little bit different, which works beautifully in guiding us through the complicated idea of parallel worlds existing alongside our own.

Why this is important to the story is because Tess’s new, not to be trusted, guardian might well want to use that knowledge for their own dark ends. Tess must work hard to find out how the strange object she owns works, without letting it fall into the wrong hands and cause disaster, not only in her world but potentially all the other worlds that exist parallel to it.

Aside from being a fast paced and engrossing story with beautiful language, the star spun web is also a beautiful book, from the quality of the paper, the design of the headers with spider webs, to the book cover. Stripes Books, the publisher, have done a wonderful job in packaging a wonderful story.

In sum, this is a wonderful story with a compelling female lead, with a race against time in a fantasy world constructed from beautiful  language. And what’s more, this felt like it was going to be the first in a series.

The Star Spun Web is published by Stripes Publishing and is available here.
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Sinead O’Hart

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Sinead O’Hart was raised in a small house full of books in the south-east of Ireland. She has a degree in Medieval English and has had many careers (including butcher, bookseller and university lecturer). She now lives in County Meath, near Dublin, with her husband, their daughter and an ever-expanding book collection. Visit sjohart.wordpress.com | @SJOHart

 

Reviewed by Daniel Soule

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