The Whisperwicks: The labyrinth of lost and found by Jordan Lees

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Benjamiah’s mother is wired with an investigative brain and his father seems keener on the world of mystery and fiction, and they don’t seem to be able to walk a smooth path together. Benjamiah is a little lost and alone. His family seems to be falling apart and there is nothing that his investigative and reasoning brain can fathom to solve the dilemma. And then he is thrust from his life in his family’s bookshop into another world, Wreathenwold, and into a new bookshop and a labyrinthine world which does not seem to behave logically. Each new person he meets has a poppet doll at their side, ready to be summoned, and there is no rhyme, reason or map to explain the new world he is in. He is lost again. An accidental rescue places him in the home of Elizabella, and Benjamiah becomes embroiled in a rescue plan for Elizabella’s lost twin, Edwin. The magical mystery world is complex and occasionally unhinged, but Benjamiah proves to be a trustworthy friend in the most awful of circumstances. The quest to find Edwin and explain his disappearance thrusts the young children into a world of danger and eccentricity with the need to solve mysteries and ply their own magic. Friendship may be the greatest magic of all.

This is a breathtakingly original and convoluted story. The magical world is eccentric and unique and will challenge those who prefer a logical route in life. The winding pathways and unusual fantasy ‘rules’ are pre-empted with chapter introductions quoted from a ‘History of Wreathenwold’ book, a book that gives titbits of explanation of the fantasy world where Elizabella and Edwin, and now Benjamiah, are located. The Whisperwicks is charming and full of magical delight. The complexities and occasionally menacing characters mean that this book is best for readers aged 10-14 who are prepared for some dark and confusing plot details. It is not lighthearted, but the growth of friendship between Elizabella and Benjamiah is a candle in the fantasy darkness. I enjoyed this journey into a twisted (mapless) world, where getting lost is the norm, and was delighted to see that there will be a sequel to look forward to. Jordan Lees has created a storyland that is like no other, and yet there are hints of ancient mythology and fantasy stories where a character moves between reality and fantasy. This will be a much-loved book for young readers who enjoy a challenge and a twist in the fantasy they read.

Themes: Fantasy, Family, Friendship, Magic, Transformation, Quest.

Carolyn Hull