Friday, May 25, 2012

13 Treasures More Chilling Than Charming, But Still Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

No one believes Tanya when she talks about the fairies.  Why would they?  It's too fantastical to be true.  But Tanya sees their ugly little faces, hears their menacing taunts, fears their potent magic.  As hard as she tries to ignore them, the fairies refuse to leave her alone.  

When Tanya's mum finally has enough of her daughter's wild stories, she sends Tanya to live with her eccentric old grandmother.  Tanya barely knows the woman, since Florence has never made any effort to keep in touch. As if living with a stranger isn't bad enough, Tanya now resides in Elvesden Manor, a creepy old mansion that sits alone in an isolated, overgrown corner of the Essex countryside.  A thick forest known as Hangman's Wood surrounds the house, making it feel even more sinister.  The only part of Tanya's new home that feels at all welcoming is Fabian, the groundskeeper's 12-year-old son.  But even he is just an annoying, bookish boy.

It doesn't take long for Tanya to realize Elvesden Manor is full of secrets.  It's not just the fairies, either—although the house is home to plenty of otherworldly creatures—it's something bigger.  When Tanya learns about a girl who disappeared in Hangman's Wood fifty years ago, she's determined to find out what happened.  But solving the mystery will not be easy.  In fact, following the clues will take Tanya and Fabian on a complicated and dangerous journey—one that will lead them right to the brink of the formidable fairy world.  And beyond.

If you're expecting 13 Treasures, the first book in Michelle Harrison's middle grade fantasy series, to be a nice, calm Fablehaven-ish read, think again.  There are similarities between the two books, for sure, but Harrison's has a sinister bent that's a little ... scary.  Still, although the story's not particularly original, it is rich and absorbing.  I enjoyed it.  I did find the book more chilling than charming, which isn't a bad thing, just not what I expected.  If your child's easily frightened, I would be cautious recommending this one, but my daughter really liked it and so did I.

(Readalikes:  13 Curses and 13 Wishes by Michelle Harrison; also reminded me of the Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scary situations and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed 13 Treasures from my kids' elementary school library and read it as part of my volunteer work with the same.                             


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