Everdark by Abi Elphinstone

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Published by Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Everdark is the first book in an exciting new magical adventure series by Abi Elphinstone. It begins in Crackledawn, one of the four Unmapped Kingdoms. The inhabitants are waiting excitedly to witness the Rising, a once-in-every-500-years event, where a new phoenix rises from the ashes of its predecessor. With the birth of a new phoenix the world’s magic is renewed and a new era begins. However, something goes wrong. There is no phoenix, just a blood-curdling screech and a large black-winged creature heading out across the sea. A dark magic has been unleashed. Nightdaggers fall from the sky and everyone is turned to shadows. Everybody that is except for the cave-dwelling rock goblins and an eleven-year-old girl called Smudge and her white-nosed monkey, Bartholomew.

With the kingdom’s elders and the rest of the population rendered powerless, the responsibility for defeating this dark magic and saving the Unmapped Kingdoms and the Faraway lands now rests with Smudge and Bartholomew. They set sail on board The Coddiwomple, a magical boat. Their destination: the seas beyond the perilous Northswirl. For it’s beyond the Northswirl where they’ll find Everdark – the land where new phoenixes rise.

And what a voyage it is! Smudge and Bartholomew encounter a harpy, sea-witches, and ogre eels. They have to survive giant waves and an enormous whirlpool. There are curses and kidnappings but, luckily, Smudge and Bartholomew have enchanted objects and merscales at their disposal. I loved Abi’s vividly imagined people, creatures and places and their exotic and unfamiliar names. Abi has created wonderful new worlds brimming with magic and her explanation for the origins of these new worlds is brilliantly original.

The themes of friendship and loyalty are very strong. I was also really impressed by the book’s positive message about the power of self-belief. Smudge isn’t your typical hero. She doesn’t do well at school, she isn’t popular amongst her peers and has fragile self-esteem. Yet she proves herself to be brave, inventive, determined and resilient. She confounds her critics and doubters and, most importantly, comes to believe in herself.

Everdark is a great book. I loved the excitement and danger. There’s also lots of humour, mostly courtesy of Bartholomew’s dry – verging on acerbic – wit. I was fascinated by the magic kingdoms and how they all connected. I want to know more of Smudge and Bartholomew’s story. I want to learn more about the other Unmapped Kingdoms. I’ve already started Rumblestar (the next book in the series) and I can’t wait to devour the other books as they are published.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me this book to review.

Everdark was specially written and published to celebrate World Book Day 2019.

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