As part of their annual Smugglivus celebrations, Ana and Thea at The Book Smugglers ran a YA giveaway sponsored by Simon & Schuster which I was lucky enough to win. Michelle Harrison won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize last year for 13 Treasures which was her first book. I remember seeing it on display at the time and being tempted to buy it as it looked as if it had an interesting take on fairies and could be something my niece might enjoy too. My first prize book, The 13 Curses, arrived the week before Christmas and, as it was a sequel, I just had to buy The 13 Treasures to get into the story properly! Any excuse…
I am leaping ahead of myself and should probably say what the books are about! The heroine of The Thirteen Treasures, Tanya, is a young girl who can (unusually for a human) see fairies. It’s clear from the outset that they are not always pleasant to her and their antics land her in trouble with her mother. Eventually reaching the end of her tether, her mother sends her to stay with her grandmother, Florence, at her old manor house in the country.
There she re-connects with Fabian, the groundskeeper’s son, and in the library they uncover an old photograph of Florence with a girl who vanished in the nearby woods fifty years ago. Fabian’s Grandfather, Amos, was the last person to see her alive and has been viewed suspiciously by the townspeople ever since. Fabian wants to prove his innocence and after a chance encounter with a very similar girl in the woods, the two children investigate further.
Into this mix, we add in secret tunnels, a homeless girl called Red, several fairies (and other magical creatures) , a mysterious local witch and the fact that more local children have been mysteriously disappearing…
What I love about books written for children/young adults is that they are all about the plot! The 13 Treasures is a great little story – lots of action and a vivid portrayal of the fairies living among us (I loved the grumpy brownie in the teabag jar!) and it serves as a great introduction to what I hope will be a series as well as telling an interesting story in its own right.
Although now centring on Red, events in The Thirteen Curses follow on from those in the first book and it’s definitely worth reading them in order. Broadly speaking the major characters are the same but this book feels like Harrison’s more comfortable writing and happy to tackle more perilous themes. It’s a longer book than the 13 Treasures and that allows for a more involved plot (including Red’s back story) where we learn more about the fairies and encounter their dangerous side. I enjoyed it even more than the first book and loved Red who is strong, courageous, loyal and independent. A great role model for young female readers.
I’d also like to mention the illustrated lettering at the start of each chapter which Michelle Harrison drew. They added a lovely dimension to the story and it’s nice to know that she wrote the words as well as drew these fabulous sketches. Both books race along and, as they are quite short, I was able to race through them in a couple of days and finish them off in time for a clean slate to start 2010. I hope that 13 Curses proves as successful for Harrison as 13 Treasures did and that this launches a loose franchise as I’d be very tempted to check out what happens next to the girls even though I am far too old to be part of these books target audience!