I was lucky enough to win a proof of A Pinch of Magic from Twitter, and I’m so so glad I got to read this one early! It’s a gorgeous, dark, lush tale of magic and sisterhood, which has found a firm place on my ‘favourites’ shelf.
Book: A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy won from a publisher competition. All opinions my own.
This book is just perfectly magical. Can that be the entire review? No? Okay. But trust me, it is.
Betty Widdershins is the middle sister of three, and together with 17 year old Fliss and 6 year old Charlie, she lives with her grandmother (and a cat called Oi!) above their pub on the tiny island of Crowstone. Their mother is dead, and their father is in prison. Betty is itching to get off the island and see the world, but on her thirteenth birthday, Granny breaks some bad news… The girls are beset with a family curse, and may never leave the island. From there, the story takes some enthralling magical twists, but at its heart it is always a story about loyalty, family, strength, and the power of sisterly love.
It’s gorgeous. Opening the book and reading the first page feels like sinking into a bath that’s just the right temperature. The foggy, dark, enveloping atmosphere of Crowstone is almost palpable – and it’s written so beautifully that after a couple of pages I didn’t even notice myself holding the book. I devoured it in one sitting, wrapped in a blanket on a rainy day with Tomte the cat purring on my legs – and if that image sounds tempting, then this is the book for you.
Betty is a fabulous main character, full of pluck and big ideas, but all three of the sisters are wonderfully drawn. I loved that Charlie wasn’t written at all patronisingly, despite being quite a small child, and I loved that Fliss wasn’t at all ashamed of enjoying her own flirtatiousness. There isn’t a single character in this book that doesn’t feel completely real. The magical objects which the girls take possession of are so clever, and well-suited to them (no matter what Betty might initially think!) – actually, all of the magic in this book is so perfectly woven into the setting of Crowstone and the personalities of the Widdershins family. It almost gives it the feel of a fairytale or a legend – something about the story just feels right.
I know I would have fallen head-over-heels-in-love with this book as a kid, so if you know a young reader who’s a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, The House With Chicken Legs, or even E Nesbit, make sure to get them a copy of this when it publishes in February. For older lovers of MG fiction, this is ideal – it’s a book to be rushed through once to discover the ways the story unfolds, and then to be read again slowly and savoured. I’m going to be buying everything else Michelle Harrison ever writes. An absolutely certain five out of five cats.