Esme's wish by Elizabeth Foster
Odyssey Books, 2017. ISBN 9781925652246
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy; Imaginary worlds; Love and desire; Friendship. Esme is a strong and feisty young teenager whose personality is shaped by the loss of her artist mother in mysterious circumstances seven years prior to the opening chapter. When we meet her at the beginning of the book, she is facing the remarriage of her father (to a step-mother who has done nothing to win her over). Through strange circumstances Esme is able to escape the clutches of the influence of her new step-mother's family and falls inexplicably into another world that may hold the secret to her mother's disappearance. In this strange new world, magical gifts and fantasy creatures and a disturbing tendency to earthquakes combine to unsettle Esme's search for her mother. The transformation in Esme as she discovers secrets about her mother and her own abilities is slowly revealed. She also develops a growing trust of her new friends in the fantasy world. The winner though is the very well-crafted fantasy land that Elizabeth Foster has created. It was delightfully different, but with enough recognisable fantasy features that made it feel comfortable and yet very imaginative.
After initially being a bit reticent, I eventually found myself charmed by this story and will be looking out for the sequel! It is not a lengthy tome, so will appeal to readers who are starting out in their discovery of fantasy worlds but it is not childish; there is enough risk and danger for Young Adult readers. The fantasy 'fight' to restore the fantasy world of Aeolia to its rightful balance (and overcome negative influences) is very entertaining.