This is a delightfully enjoyable return to the Kingdom of Folio which was visited in the first book in this series, The Lost Magician. Forty years after the return of the Hastings siblings from their adventure in Folio, their young relative, Jewel Hastings, enters an old bookshop to escape the bullies who are chasing her.
Once inside, she finds an old atlas which acts as a portal through which she is pulled into the Land of Folio, a world of the imagination. Once there, she meets the Librarian who sets her on a quest to save her adoptive mother’s younger sister, her Aunt Evelyn, who is now the Empress of Folio.
Jewel’s hamster, Fizz, has entered Folio alongside her. By the way, Fizz can now talk, and what a chatterbox he is! He has an acerbic wit, is rude, fierce and loyal – he has the absolute best one-liners in his own inimitable style and, by his own inimitable style, I mean, he is a comic genius! I truly adored him, and want my own Fizz!
The Librarian takes Jewel to begin her quest in the City of the Unreads where she meets her Aunt Evelyn who has introduced the citizens to the Stampstone, a device which connects them all to a vast store of knowledge, but is it also being used for a much more sinister and dangerous purpose? Just as Evelyn is prepared to return to her own world with Jewel, she is kidnapped.
And, so begins a stupendously riveting, exciting and scary adventure to save her Aunt … and to discover some important truths along the way. With her trusted companions Fizz and her robot assistant Pandora, they adventure through the most amazing lands and meet the most wonderful, if sometimes frightening, characters. Met with many challenges along the way, their quest eventually takes them to the Frozen Sea where truths are tantalisingly exposed amidst breath-taking danger.
The world-building is superb, from the Ideas Jungle where ideas grow from light-bulbs in trees, to the Marsh of Monsters where grotesque swamp monsters reside, to the Mountains of Mythia with its gathering of Gods and mythical beasts.
I think Jewel is a wonderful protagonist, a fantastic role model for all so-called nerds who are trying to find the courage and self-belief to stop hiding, apologising and instead be themselves, celebrating their nerdiness. Jewel is clever, logical, perceptive and not easily fazed by the incredulity she is faced with. Above all, she has the courage to face her fears, protect her loved ones and seek the answers to who she is.
I keep trying to be brave, but it’s just so hard.
I loved the use of the Stampstone as a plot device. It alludes to the power of media and technology to control, distort and manipulate information so gaining power and control over its users. Holders of knowledge, through stories and information, hold power and, if someone can control all knowledge, they can exert vast power.
This is a brilliantly immersive and engrossing story, with both charming and formidable characters, perfect for readers of 8+, or anyone who wants to return to that delightful land of imagination so well-remembered from childhood … and perhaps not lost to us yet!
If you can imagine it, it exists …somewhere!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.