One Wish by Michelle Harrison

Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month for June was one that I’d been looking forward to for a while. I read Michelle’s Thirteen Treasures trilogy in my first year as a bookseller (The misty mists of 2010), and absolutely adored them for their degree of Spiderwick Chronicles charm, dark, unsettling fantasy, and celebration of English folklore and the countryside that spawned it. Then I read Unrest, her first book aimed at an older age bracket (it’s in your local Teen section, hopefully), and was once again wrapped in mystery, history and chills in a Woman in Black inspired horror novel (perfect for fans of James Dawson’s Say Her Name). So when I found out she was releasing a new book, after quite a long break away from writing (something about having a baby… What an excuse!), and that it was going to be a prequel to her original trilogy, I was so very excited…

The jacket belies some of the darker twists in this book!

The jacket belies some of the darker twists in this book!

Tanya Fairchild has always been able to see fairies. All her life, she’s seen them, but it isn’t the perfect childhood dream that most little girls might dream of. Fairies are mean spirited, full of tricks and pranks that have hampered her whole life, and without her parents being able to see them, or anyone else she knows for that matter, she can’t talk to anyone without looking completely crazy. The fairies seem to leave her alone if she doesn’t try to talk about them to others, so for so many years, she gets by not mentioning them, trying to cover up the tricks they play before she gets accused of anything. After her parents divorced, Tanya and her mother decide to take a trip to the countryside to try and forget things for a few weeks, and whilst they’re holidaying in the sleepy seaside town of Spinney Wicket, Tanya discovers a whole new world of the Fae, fairies and their kin, and she meets Ratty. Henry Hanratty is a boy around her age, who travels up and down the country with his father, living a nomad life in their camper – and he can see fairies. Meeting someone else who has the Second Sight is a huge revelation to Tanya, and he seems to know everything about the Fae world. He even has a friendly fairy (though only friendly to him), a one-winged guardian called Turpin. The two of them become fast friends, until Ratty’s father fails to return home one night. And then some strange creatures whisk Ratty away before Tanya’s very eyes, leaving her and the difficult, magicless Turpin to solve a mystery that stretches back in time, and through the Fey world and our own – a mystery of missing memories, imagination and life and death itself.

The new jackets for the Treasures Trilogy are lovely - I'm a fan of the fox costume.

The new jackets for the Treasures Trilogy are lovely – I’m a fan of the fox costume.

One Wish picks up the tone of the Thirteen Treasures trilogy and continues it perfectly, as if there’d never been a break in them at all. Tanya is a brilliantly bright protagonist, intelligent and curious, with a good sense of adventure, but balanced by a level head, and through her uncover of the Fey world, the reader gets to learn things along with her. She’s tenacious and determined, and her dedication to her friends makes her so much fun as a main character. Turpin is brilliant, probably my favourite character in the book, with her sullen, child-like ways, and her glee in petty mischief and the misfortune of others – but she has heart, amongst it all. She’s slow to trust, but those she does trust are protected by her with her life, and she can be incredibly selfless when she chooses to be. Solomon makes a great villain, an equal balance of determined drive with a genuinely noble (if misguided) cause that makes him sympathetic instead of a standard bad-guy caricature. It’s Morghul who gives the story its real malevolence, emerging from Ratty’s subconscious like some kind of childhood nightmare brought into the flesh. His faceless, unstoppable form makes him genuinely terrifying…

It’s good to see that Michelle hasn’t lost her ability to create worlds with humour, horror and adventure, and the chase across the river is a particularly stand out moment for me, with page-gripping action, and a relentless horror on their heels. I couldn’t read fast enough.

One Wish is a brilliant summer read, a brilliantly fun, engaging story full of classic English folklore, tension and friendship. I strongly recommend reading it whilst sat under a tree.

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