Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2019.
I was completely drawn into Amy Wilson’s magical world in Shadows of Winterspell. Winterspell is an ancient forest and has been home to fairies, sprites, imps, trolls and centaurs for generations. This story of a community of fae has the feel of folklore and legend about it.
Twelve-year-old Stella lives in a cottage on the edge of the forest with her nan, who’s a ghost. Stella’s mother was a moon sprite and her father is a tree sprite. They once were the king and queen of the fae. When Stella was two, her mother died from the plague and – with her dying breath – brought Nan back to life to care for Stella. Her father became tormented by grief at the loss of his wife and has retreated to his palace hidden in the heart of the forest. His pain is so powerful that it manifests physically as shadows which take the form of terrifying wild creatures. These shadows are poisoning the forest and destroying the fae.
For years, Stella has been forbidden from entering the forest. Nan has warned her that there is danger lurking in the shadows and she has taught Stella how to cast spells and charms to protect the boundaries of their home. Unable to be part of the fae world and with limited contact with humans, Stella is lonely. Against Nan’s wishes, Stella enrols at school and hopes to make friends. Pretty soon she’s struck up a friendship with Zara and Yanny, a girl and a boy in her year.
However, the school is not quite as it first seems. At the top of a winding wooden staircase and hidden away upstairs are lots of secret classrooms. It’s the school’s magical department and – with its lessons on practical magic, glamouring, bewitching, magical ethics and the earth sciences – there’s definitely a Hogwarts vibe.
With Stella’s new friendships come secrets and revelations. Added to this, the forest fae’s fight for survival becomes even more urgent and Stella realises that Winterspell cannot remain out of bounds forever. I really loved how the book explored Stella’s destiny as she accepts her burden of responsibility and learns to understand and channel her power.
Themes of friendship and loyalty are also really strong. Stella is emboldened and empowered by her friendship with Zara and Yanny and the three of them are a formidable team.
Amy’s descriptions, particularly of Winterspell, are wonderfully vivid. Her language is rich and expressive and brilliantly evokes the cursed forest world with all its sinister menace. With its jagged icicles and frost-covered cobwebs, there’s a stark beauty to this eerie, icy world.
Shadows of Winterspell is a book brimming with magic and mystery. I loved it.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me this book to review.