– Short review –
The second book in the Starfell series, this tale follows young witch Willow Moss and her grumpy kobold (who is definitely not a cat!) as she goes in search of her missing friend Nolin Sometimes. It’s a quest that finds her locked up in a mysterious tower, sailing in a copper boat, visiting a town made of books and culminates in a parallel world where magic has a dark side. She meets a fantastical range of characters along the way – both old and new friends – whilst grappling with her misbehaving magic. Can she find her friend and solve the mystery of why things keep disappearing around her?
If you enjoyed Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy you’ll probably like this
– Longer review –
If you haven’t read the first book in this series, have no fear, this works perfectly well as a stand alone read. It starts with an old gnarly oak tree delivering a leaf mail to young witch Willow Moss, in which she learns that her friend, Nolin Sometimes, has been kidnapped. Luckily, thanks to some experimentation with magical plants, Nolin was able to see 10 minutes into the future and predict his kidnapping – the leaf mail is his cry for help, but can Willow come to the rescue?
She’s feeling a little downhearted as her magical ability (to find missing things) seems to be misfiring and, in fact, she is inadvertently making things disappear. After a row with her family ends up with her making everyone vanish she decides it’s safer to leave home for a while and so the mission to track down Nolin begins…..
Thankfully she still has her companion Oswin (a kobold not a cat) to keep her company as he moans and complains from his carpetbag. So begins a magical quest which sees her encounter a host of fabulous characters. A, misguided, witch who locks her in a tower where she meets a wizard, Holloway, who has been incarcerated there for a year. Together they escape and are able to continue Willow’s journey in his fabulous bath tub-esque copper boat. Just as well since she accidentally left her broomstick, Whisper, behind and, therefore, left herself without any form of transport.
However a guardian raven tracks them down. A raven who changes form into a boy called Sprig, a boy who has been sent by supreme witch, Moreg, to help and to return Whisper. Willow can’t believe her luck but Oswin is not too sure about this strange new “friend”.
When they meet old pals at Nolin’s house, whilst searching for clues to his whereabouts, who are also suspicious of Sprig, Willow has to decide whether to trust her instincts about this slightly odd shape shifting boy.
Before long the entire group are making their way to Library, a town built of books, where they hope to find the key to the kidnapping.
Amongst the books they find what they are looking for and suddenly face a dangerous journey into a parallel world where magic has a really dark side. A side so dark that if you go there you have to leave your soul behind when you leave…….
Can they find Nolin, is Sprig to be trusted and will Willow learn the secret to fixing her magic and finding what’s needed to save the day?
This really is a magical adventure from start to finish with a set of truly inventive characters with oodles of personality. The settings are so imaginative and take the reader on a real journey of discovery. There is the perfect mix of comedy, friendship and peril and I certainly want to read book one now as well as any Willow Moss adventures that will follow.
The illustrations that are peppered throughout really add to the story and the vibrant cover that’s hiding under the dust jacket of the hardback version is an utter delight. These are exactly the kind of books to spark a child’s imagination and have them dreaming up entire worlds of their own. A total joy!
Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale is published by HarperCollinsChildren’s and is available here.
Born in South Africa, Dominique Valente now lives in the Sussex countryside with her husband and their English Bulldog, Fudge. She writes bestselling women’s fiction under her pseudonym, Lily Graham, and is a former journalist for publications like Business Day and Woman & Home.
Review by Angela Paull
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