Set in the magical location of Venice this book follows the coming of age of Aribella, the daughter of a poor lacemaker. On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, whilst defending best friend Theo, she discovers a previously unknown power – she can conjure fire from her fingertips. Cast out by the locals she finds herself rescued by Rodolfo, a member of The Cannovacci. This mysterious organisation is full of others with special powers and they’re about to go into battle with an unknown enemy as the very future of Venice is under threat. Suddenly Aribella has to control her new found power and fast!
If you liked A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan you’ll love this
Aribella is an ordinary twelve year old girl living in Venice. She comes from a poor family – her Dad is a lacemaker and her Mum disappeared mysteriously when she was a small child. She spends most of her time helping out best friend Theo at the fish market whilst trying to avoid local bully Gian.
However, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, her life changes forever. Whilst defending Theo from Gian her temper flares and she suddenly finds flames coming out of her fingers. Denounced as a witch, the locals want to see her jailed and she makes a desperate escape in Theo’s boat. However whilst out on the lagoon a strange spectre attacks Theo and she finds herself rescued by the equally mysterious Rodolfo.
Rodolfo takes her to a dilapidated building in his gondola. It’s a place that has always fascinated her but little did she know that, behind it’s decaying façade, it’s an opulent hotel – and headquarters of an organisation called The Cannovacci.
An organisation of masked heroes that each also have their own special powers – from freezing time to walking through walls. There she finds children of her own age and many elders – oh and a large protective lion. Yes, this really is one magical and fantastic place but things are not as they should be in Venice.
What/who is the spectre that previously appeared and why is Rodolfo reading worrying omens in the stars?
Aribella and her new friends realise that something is seriously amiss and that, maybe, a member of The Connovacci is not all that they seem. The race is on to save Venice from the evil clutches of an, as yet, unknown enemy.
In a nutshell this is a classic goody vs baddy story but setting it in such a magical place and with marvellously mythical characters raises the genre to a whole new level. Our heroes are mostly kids who don’t really yet know how to harness their powers but are quickly coming to realise that friendship can give you the greatest power of all.
From the moment I picked this up and saw the cover I was hooked. It’s a real page turner of a tale with plenty of relatable characters, a sprinkling of real magic and a beating heart of love and friendship running all the way through it. I totally adored it.
The Mask of Aribella is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.
Anna Hoghton is an award-winning poet, filmmaker and co- founder of makeaplace.net. She has an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University and was one of fifteen leading UK poets commissioned for Bristol Festival of Ideas 2016. THE MASK OF ARIBELLA is her debut novel.
Follow Anna on twitter @AnnaHoghton and find out more at annahoghton.com
Review by Angela Paull
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