Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 06/01/2016 Gr 4–7—Thirteen-year-old Annabel Grey was raised to be a proper young lady. Her loftiest dreams involve her best friend, dresses, and a brand-new pair of green ice skates. Then, in the turn of a day, her mother goes abroad, leaving her with aunts she's never known. Annabel jarringly learns that the visions she's always seen in puddles were just an inkling of the magical world surrounding her, one from which her mother was estranged and to which she has now been returned. Seemingly minutes after she arrives at the magic shop owned by her aunts, the Vine sisters, a dark wizard named Mr. Angel arrives. He has constructed a dark magic machine and conjured shadowlings in a bid to take over all of London and dissolve good magic. Annabel's journey to Under London to retrieve the white wand in an effort to save everyone from Mr. Angel's nefarious plans ultimately becomes one of self-discovery in which she comes to terms with her new identity and embraces bravery, chance, and unexpected friendships. Many scenes are richly described, from dark, foggy, sinister London to an unwelcome delay in the troll dwellings of Under London. Yet ultimately some characters and elements feel underdeveloped. The brevity of the period before Annabel leaves her old life, as well as the abruptness with which the story wraps up after her quest ends, makes for a shallow backstory. Further, the tale centers on the battle between dark and light, in which light, or good, is often called "white" (the white wand; her pure white, unmapped skin) and dark, or evil, is often "black" (the black wand, black fog, black wave of destruction). Though this is of course an age-old trope, one wishes different, more inclusive naming conventions had been employed. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries where Foxlee's Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy proved popular.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2016 Twelve-year-old Annabel Gray, raised as a proper young lady in mid-nineteenth century London, is startled to learn that she is a “most magical girl” and the prophesied answer to an imminent catastrophe. Elsewhere in London, bad wizard Mr. Angel has created a machine that produces dark magical power by feeding on sorrow, using it to raise an army of Shadowlings to help him take over the city. Accompanied into the mysterious realm of Under London by Kitty, a tough street urchin with supernatural powers, and Hafwen, an unusual troll, Annabel must draw on her newfound abilities to try to stop Mr. Angel-but can she do it in time? The basic plot elements are classic and familiar, but the precise, atmospheric details and distinctive characters transform this tale into an original and immersive experience. Annabel’s former life in society is effectively juxtaposed with her sudden (and initially unwelcome) launch into a dangerous quest, and her transformation from young lady to witch-in-training is handled with sympathy and credibility. The supporting characters-irascible Kitty, endearing Hafwen, malevolent Mr. Angel-are superbly sketched, specific, and memorable. Even inanimate objects have personality, as Annabel’s broomstick reveals a sensitive and spunky disposition and Mr. Angel’s terrifying machine is as much living monster as mechanical contraption. Kids who enjoyed Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (BCCB 2/13) and fans of Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song (BCCB 6/15) will find similar otherworldly appeal in this enthralling adventure. JH - Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.