This review contains SPOILERS and is intended for parents.
Sanspell, the first book in Elizabeth Pulford’s BloodTree Chronicles, is a strange piece of metafiction that has some familiar echoes in the race to fulfil a quest before the last leaves fall from the cursed and dying Bloodtree. This book takes itself seriously with none of the tongue-in-cheek self-mockery that usually takes the edge off stories of this type.
Ordinary schoolgirl Abigail turns out not to be quite so ordinary after all (but it’s entirely unclear why her mother gave her no information or training or even answered her questions prior to a few rushed seconds of commands and advice before shoving her through a time/story draught). Nevertheless, Abigail – now bizarrely known by the name “Spindale” – has landed in the middle of a story being written and illustrated by her seven great-aunts. Their powerful witch villain has managed to create a crack in the page through which she cursed the story – none of the words the authors write down now will remain set on the page. They cannot complete the story, and stories feed the Bloodtree. It is up to Spindale to take on the hero’s role – living in the story while her Great-Aunt June continues the narration verbally.
The story makes up for its dangling plot with an almost entirely female cast. The sole male protagonist gets himself captured and must be rescued by Spindale and another girl. While the two spat over their mutual attraction to him, they do eventually begin to work together instead of sabotaging each other. It’s a shame they can’t be proper friends, but we’ll take the win.
It’s a “Meh” for me, but if you have a voracious reader and are hunting for something new to read, this one’s probably worth a go.
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle-grade chapter book The Convoluted Key, picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job.