This is the second novel for younger readers by Jaclyn Moriarty and, due to its nature, has me seeking out her previous book, The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.
From the beginning this tale is based on teamwork and magic, giving an underlying message of compromise to enable harmony. It is easy to read and, although aimed at young people, is an entertaining adult read. This book would be excellent as a read-together family book but be warned, it will be hard not to sneak the next chapter or two ahead of family time. Many will be familiar with the Kingdoms and Empires realm and will find this addition to the adventures captivating.
The story is based in the township of Spindrift, a place regularly frequented by pirates and other colourful characters. When the tournament between the Orphanage School and the Brathelthwaite Boarding School is held, age-old rivalries are sparked, and some are willing to do anything to win. At its conclusion an all-out war between the two begins. With an escalation of magical activity involving a strange flu like epidemic and children being stolen, all efforts to defeat the witches and sirens that have invaded the town fail. The school-aged novelty of a war of pranks soon wears off and sees the two protagonists from opposing sides join forces to rescue the stolen children.
This is a fun adventure that exposes the reader to the complexities of issues involved in fear, prejudice, war, racial tensions, refugees, morals and ethics in a gentle manner. It shows how circumstances can bring out the best and the worst in people.
An excellent choice for young people aged between 10 and 14 years of age, or anyone with a taste for magic and mayhem.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: November 2018