The golden swift by Lev Grossman

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Another Lev Grossman marvel!  This is the second book in The Silver Arrow series and I loved this adventure as much as the first. Kate and Tom are back in their normal lives auditioning for a role in the school musical or practising martial arts skills and waiting … waiting for Uncle Bertie to deliver a new Silver Arrow assignment to restore animals to their natural habitat using the magical and mysterious train line.  When disappointment overtakes Kate, and her fears for her missing uncle start to weigh heavily on her, she takes matters (and the magical talking steam train with its appealing carriages) back onto the track and tries to do things independently. A near head-on crash and some other strange encounters leads her to join forces with Jag, a fellow student from her school and the Conductor aboard The Golden Swift, and continue the work of environmental restoration that is so important to the natural world. But has she meddled where she is not meant to be? And where is Uncle Bertie and is the odd and proper Jag a threat or a friend?

This magical fantasy world combines environmental issues and the challenges of human interference in the natural world with an adventure on board a train! The central character is about to turn 12 years old and also is coming to terms with friendship struggles and personal growth issues in her non-magical existence. This book has hints of the magic of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree with its worlds of fantasy a heartbeat away, mixed with the drama of an epic David Attenborough nature documentary … and in combination with alternate modes of transport  and childish delight in independent adventures, this is a somewhat unique reading experience. But the mixture just works! This is a great Primary years story and readers aged 8-12 will want to get on board and help save the animals in the natural world.

Themes: Trains, Environmentalism, Fantasy adventure, Natural world, Friendship.

Carolyn Hull