This week’s Mini Reviews features some brilliant Middle Grade books: Shadows of Winterspell by Amy Wilson, Frost Fire by Jamie Smith and The Star-Spun Web by Sinead O’Hart.
Shadows of Winterspell by Amy Wilson
I have been a huge fan of Amy’s work since Steph made me pick up A Girl Called Owl a couple of years ago, so I grabbed my copy of Shadows of Winterspell the moment it came out. I saved it to read over Christmas and was not disappointed. Stella is being raised by her Nan, who is doing her best to protect Stella from the shadows and goings on in the forest, but being a ghost she’s somewhat limited. As someone very close to my grandparents, it’s something I love to see represented in books, and Stella and Nan’s relationship is truly beautiful. I also loved seeing Stella become more independent, starting with taking herself to school, although it was nothing like she expected, and the more she gets to know the school, the more she discovers about life in the forest, and why she is so important. Zara was a particular favourite, I loved what a fierce and loyal friend she was, even under the circumstances, and she’s just a brilliant character to read. This book is infused with magic, and I was all here for the magic and power in this world. Another brilliant book from Amy.
Frost Fire by Jamie Smith
Frost Fire was one of the books the boys got me for Christmas. It’s set in a world where one of the tribes revere the glacier overlooking their village and where some of them bond with ice slivers to gain magical power. I loved this magic system so very much, I’m disappointed I didn’t get an ice sliver when I visited the glaciers. I adore glaciers, they’re a phenomenon that fascinate me, so to have a book where one was at the centre of the world was everything I wanted. I loved the relationship between Sabira and the ice sliver she bonds with. There is a big mystery surrounding what happens to those who don’t return from the glacier bonded, like her brother Kyran. I enjoyed how this book emphasised the wildness and ferocity of nature, and the very real sense of danger around the glacier. There are some extremely tense moments. On top of this the Aderasti (Sabira’s tribe) and the Ignatians are getting close to war as tensions and disagreements between them grow. This was a brilliant Middle Grade adventure with some powerful messages. I hope there will be more books set in this world.
The Star-Spun Web by Sinead O’Hart
Tess de Sousa is an orphan at Ackerbee’s orphanage until some creepy guy comes along claiming to be her guardian and takes her away to his house. He’s less interested in Tess than he is something that her parents left her. I loved the world-building, and how Tess makes a friend in a different world. Her friendship with Thomas was one of my favourite things in this book, though I adored Wilf and Millie. I loved that Tess was not presented as a stereotypical girl: she loves science and experimenting, and she has a tarantula called Violet. She is brilliant, she’s very comfortable in her own skin and I adored her. The couple who ran the orphanage were the cutest couple. Seeing an LGBTQ+ relationship in a Middle Grade book in itself is great, but these two women are lush and will stop at nothing to protect the children in their care. They give a view of family that might not be traditional, but is something that every child deserves. This is such a great book and if you have not read it yet, you really must.
Have you read any of these books? Can you recommend any MG reads with brilliant magic systems?