Title: The House at the Edge of Magic
Author: Amy Sparkes
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Published: 6th January 2021
Synopsis: A quirky, funny and fast-paced middle grade fantasy adventure, perfect for fans of Kaye Umansky, Sophie Anderson and Peter Bunzl.
Nine is an orphan pickpocket determined to escape her life in the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. When she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, she knocks on its tiny door and watches it grow into a huge, higgledy-piggeldy house. Inside she finds a host of magical and brilliantly funny characters, including Flabberghast – a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch – and a hideous troll housekeeper who’s emotionally attached to his feather duster. They have been placed under an extraordinary spell, which they are desperate for Nine to break. If she can, maybe they can offer her a new life in return…
- Debut middle grade fiction from an established author of picture books and early readers.
- Author previously shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the BookTrust Best Books Awards.
- A bold, sparky protagonist who loves books and treasures the library – and her librarian!
Nine longs to escape her life as an orphan and a pickpocket when she is thrust into the world of a magical house after stealing an ornament. When it grows, Nine discovers a house filled with an array of magical characters – a wizard called Flabberghast, who is the High Wizard, Chair of the Tea Tasters Committee, World Hopscotch Champion 1835,
and a troll housekeeper called Eric who are all under a spell – which leads to a mystery and quest to break a spell placed upon the house and its inhabitants by an evil witch. Nine also meets Dr Spoon, the alchemist. The cursed house must contend with being unable to leave, a wandering toilet, and the curse that only Nine can break – but how?
Nine finds the library, and the early chapters revolve around the library as she meets the inhabitants, and discovers what has happened to them, and what she needs to do. This story is filled with magic and dreams and is a story that is set in a Victorian world, but also, a magical world. It is a house that lacks adults, or so it seems in this book, as the younger characters like Nine, Flabberghast, and Eric drive the narrative. This gives children a voice and shows them that they can have a say in their lives.
The fast-paced action, where things happen quickly, is a good set up for future books, if there are any, and the fact that there are spaces within the house unexplored leaves room for this as well. Amy, the author, and the readers, get to explore and build on the world as the series and the characters grow and expand. As the story goes on, Nine finds out more about herself, and has the hope that she will one day find a home and a better life than she had when she first discovered the ornament as a pickpocket.
Magic has been a key theme of many of the books I have been reading lately, especially in children’s fiction. It is a theme that will never go out of style, and that whatever the plot, will always work alongside the story, and themes to bring things to life and communicate a universal message – in this case, a sense of family and safety – that brings readers together, and shows that whilst we may have some differences, there are some things that everyone longs for. Nine longs for a home – and this book sensitively and carefully shows and contrasts two worlds through the eyes of a child searching for her place somewhere.
This story will entertain readers of all ages. It is one that can be devoured or savoured, and whilst some things are left to the imagination, this is part of the fun of fantasy fiction, and the gaps leave us with the promise of more books to come, which will hopefully tell us what we need to know and build on the world that has been created so far.
A great read for readers aged eight and older.