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Esme's Wish by Elizabeth Foster

When 15-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father's wedding, her protest is dismissed as the impulsive action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme's mother, so why can't she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure others are covering up the real reason to her mother's disappearance and that 'lost at sea' is code for something much more terrible.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother's steps and untangles the threads of her double life.

The more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

This is author Elizabeth Foster's debut book, and it is a cracker. She writes almost poetically, rich in detail and emotion. She sucks readers into the world of Aeolia, creating a fully-formed magical world. Foster manages to pack a load of details into the pages, while also being economical with words. There are no long pages that make you lose interest or that deviate too much from the story line and plot.

The characters are all well-formed and Esme is strong and determined, but also shows her vulnerability and emotions. Friendships are a strong theme throughout the book and Foster ensures they are realistic. Not everyone gets along, and that's okay. It was also refreshing to read about three teenagers, without a love triangle in sight.

It feels like a 'fantasy-lite' version while reading, purely because the mystical and magical elements are so well formed. Foster does a wonderful job bringing the elements to life - from enchanted paper to huge dragons, sirens and mermaids, and other magical creatures. Foster slowly reveals more and more about the magic of Esperance, adding layer upon layer to the reader's understanding. She doesn't leave you stranded trying to imagine the place yourself, but rather reveals it to you slowly.

Foster leaves the ending fairly open, ensuring reader's know a second book is in the works.

Aimed at middle-grade readers, it is a real page-turner and would make for a wonderful read aloud too - just prepare to read 'just one more chapter' each night though.

Esme's Wish is a fantastic debut that will simply charm readers.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Odyssey Books, RRP $22.95


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