When I became friends with Amber Elby on Twitter, it was clear that we had loads in common, so I jumped at the chance to review her witchy, Shakespeare-inspired middle grade book, Cauldron’s Bubble. It’s just my cup of tea!
Book: Cauldron’s Bubble by Amber Elby
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent by author. All opinions my own.
This book is whip-smart, and I think would be just as much fun to read even if you had no knowledge of the Shakespeare characters it plays with – though if you do have this knowledge, you’ll have some extra spice from seeing how Amber plays with it all. The story focuses on Alda, a young girl who has inherited a ‘cauldron’s bubble’ from her beloved grandmother – a mysterious orb that can transport her to important places. She’ll meet witches and princes and a whole host of Shakespeare’s other characters, as well as a cabin boy named Dreng, who’s been sailing with Hamlet. More and more Shakespeariness is introduced as the book progresses, but things are not exactly as you expect…
Alda is a great character – she feels exactly the right age, with a mix of naivety and common sense that feels just right for a girl brought up the way that she is. She’s clever, but also vulnerable, and I liked her right from the very start of the book. She’s grieving for her grandmother, and what I liked about the writing is that this isn’t just convenient backstory, but is something that informs Alda’s actions and thoughts throughout the book – as I say, it’s very intelligently written. Dreng, too, is well-fleshed out, as is the main villain of the book (but I won’t tell you who that is!).
Alda and Dreng end up coming across the island from the Tempest, which is gorgeously described and is very spooky to read about! There’s a true classic adventure feel to the island segments which almost reminded me of Jules Verne or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – it’s not overly flashy, but that quiet mystery and menace really makes you want to keep reading. I also really loved the witches and their mysterious pronouncements. They’re a really great hook into the fantastical elements of the story.
This is one for the upper end of MG, as it has a lot of depth to it, and I would have loved it as a kid. I think it’s a great, smart read for older readers too, and could be good fun to read to older kids to kickstart a love of Shakespeare. I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, which Amber was also kind enough to gift me! Five out of five cats!