Set in the 1970s, this is Mori’s story. She and her twin sister grew up in Wales with a mum who dabbled in magic. They could talk to fairies and had little magics of their own. But their mother seeks greater power and an accident leaves Mori crippled and her twin gone. So Mori makes the hard but necessary choice to track down a father she’s never met. He’s quite surprised but takes on the challenge of raising a teenage girl. Mori finds herself in England at a boarding school, which is a completely foreign experience for her. So she dives further into her reading, devouring SFF novels by the dozens each month.
This tale is told through a series of journal entries and sometimes letters to her father. It felt like such a personal tale, as if Mori was writing to her lost twin sister and I was eaves dropping on the conversation. The story twined three elements together – the discussion of SFF novels (always a bonus!), bits of magic, and historical fiction. It really worked for me and I was so caught up in this book. I felt like Mori was a good friend by the end of it.
We also have some touches of mystery. For instance, it takes quite some time to find out how Mori was crippled and what happened to her sister (though the latter is a bit vague on the details). Then we have a smaller and much more common mystery of her father and how he met her mother and what the fall out was over. Lastly, there are the fairies themselves. For much of the novel, I was wondering if Mori was still caught up in a childhood game or if she could really see fairies and that magic was a real, tangible thing in this book (at least for her). I loved trying to catch her in some circumstance that would tell me for a certainty one way or the other. That moment doesn’t come until late in the book and having that bit of tension for the majority of the novel was a delicious tease.
Life at the boarding school is full of the teasing just about any new crippled kid on the block could expect to get. She’s got so much new to figure out, having come from a small Welsh town where everyone knows everyone. There’s some bullies I wouldn’t mind giving a nose tweak to and then there are some cool kids that do what they can to make her feel welcomed. In between terms, she has her father, a paternal grandfather, and a few aunties to get to know. Life in England is definitely different and there’s plenty of blunderings to share around. I really resonated with these aspects of the novel as I often moved as a kid and shared several of the same feelings as Mori.
The wonder of science fiction and fantasy literature is on grand display in this story. I loved all the talk about what made a story good or didn’t in Mori’s succinct few sentences. While I was born in the late 1970s, I had access to my dad’s SFF library growing up, so I recognized perhaps 3/4 of the novels referred to in this story, however, I had only read perhaps 1/3 of them. Reading this book definitely added some classic SFF novels to my TBR list. Mori will travel on multiple buses, slogging through foul weather on her cane in order to get to the library, post, or local book shop. I could totally relate.
This is one of those novels that makes me wish really hard that magic was alive and well in our world. In fact, this book almost makes me believe that if I keep looking, I will find it. As a coming of age novel, it rang true in many ways – the teasing, having to make adult decisions, going through the awkwardness of puberty. Toss in the mystery, the magic, the love of SFF literature, and you have quite the worthy read!
The Narration: Katherine Kellgren did a great job. She was the perfect voice for Mori. I loved her Welsh accent overlayed with Mori’s humor and wit. Kellgren performed other regional accents as required, making it a great narration. Her male voices were distinct and believable as well.