Oh my heart! This is another absolute triumph of a story written by the wonder that is Sophie Anderson! The language is exquisite and immediately enveloped me in its magic and warmth, keeping me absolutely mesmerised as I immersed myself in Olia’s stunning adventure.
Olia lives in Castle Mila with her parents, baby sister and Babusya. Her Babusya has warned her that a huge storm is approaching the Castle, which may well destroy it. Battling through her fears, Olia finds herself travelling through one of the Castle’s Domes into a world of tangled magic, a world beyond the Castle where she must venture to save her family and her home from a magical storm.
So begins the most incredible adventure into the Land of Forbidden Magic, an adventure that will require all of Olia’s courage, strength and self-belief to overcome the challenges and dangers she will face …
The world-building is simply stunning brought wondrously to life by beautiful imagery as Olia finds herself in a world which has been entangled in silver thread. Will she be able to find the source of the thread and free both worlds from enchantment, or will deception and trickery thwart her attempts?
I loved the story of Olia’s heritage and how the world beyond the Castle came into existence. The references to Slavic folklore permeate and enrich the story, and I especially loved Koshka (having read James Mayhew’s wonderful Koshka’s Tales, recommended by the author). I also loved the part that the nature-spirits played in the story and, of course, the wonderful domovoi, Feliks who offers Olia encouragement, friendship and hope.
This is a truly incredible action-packed story imbued with a real sense of urgency as Olia races to save both worlds, learning more about magic and her own abilities. She is a wonderful young girl who feels a heavy burden of responsibility to undo the wrongs of her ancestors. She feels anger and shame, but she is a strong and courageous young girl who defends the weak, even when it puts her in danger. She is resilient and determined, but she is also impetuous, makes mistakes and doubts herself. Will she be strong enough to believe in herself, and reunite with her family?
Belief is one of the few things more powerful than magic.
This is an intricate, magical and truly beautifully told story that transported me to a world I didn’t want to leave, a world inspired by Slavic folklore and daring adventure where family and friendship triumph, and where the goodness in others overcomes prejudice and fear. The ending brought the biggest smile of contentment I think I’ve ever experienced on finishing a book – sheer perfection!
Thank you to NetGalley and Usborne for approving me to read an early copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion. I have now bought a signed and stamped copy which I will be re-reading during a long winter evening. I have to add that the images in the final copy by Saara Söderlund are absolutely stunning. I adored the style of these illustrations which complement the folklore and magical quality of the story perfectly.