Mistress of the Storm by Melanie Welsh
|Mistress of the Storm by Melanie Welsh
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng
|Summary: Full of sea-faring adventure, mystery and intrigue - I loved this book.
|Date: July 2010
|Publisher: David Fickling Books
Verity Gallant is the oldest child in her family. She's rather plain and awkward, feels a bit like a social outcast at school, and stumbles along at home too where her beautiful, blonde, sweet little sister Poppy is obviously the favourite. One day Verity discovers a mysterious stranger in the library reading a strange book. He runs away when he sees her, taking the book with him, but Verity chases after him, following him down to the shore where he gets into a boat ready to row away. He gives the book to her when she challenges him, along with a mysterious round object. This seemingly innocuous event brings about huge changes in Verity's life. Having been ignorant about her family's history she begins to research about the gentry, with the help of her friends, and discovers skills and strengths that she never knew she had. Just in time too, for as the mysterious stranger tells her, the storm is coming...
Verity doesn't face her new troubles alone. Along the way she manages to find herself a motley assortment of friends, as is the way in stories, including the food-loving, straight talking, logical Henry and the initially pompous new girl Martha. Together they help Verity to piece together the truth behind the stories she's reading and her family's history and destiny. Melanie Welsh creates a convincingly magical world. It is close enough to our own to be recognisable for its every day details and yet has a believable magical side to it too with the mysterious history of 'the gentry', the smuggling families, ship-wreckers and inventors. I liked that Henry is so scathing of any talk about magic or superstition. Verity is always feeling and sensing the mystery and magic behind things, utterly enraptured by the tales she reads within the book she got from the stranger on the shore whilst Henry blithely squashes them all with his logical thinking. Yet ultimately, even he is convinced that there can be no other explanation for the events that are unfolding.
It can sometimes feel tired that it's always the plain, mousy brown haired girl who is the social misfit in books, yet of course I myself was a mousy brown haired little bookworm and I often felt that I didn't quite fit in at school somehow. Verity is exactly the character I would've wanted to read about, and would've wanted to imagine myself as. I can see the stereotypes now that I'm older, but I still like that someone not dissimilar to me starts out as the underdog and comes out victorious. Besides, there is something very likeable about Verity. I felt that I was completely behind her, and totally caught up in her story.
I liked that I didn't know what was going to happen, and I loved how scared I felt whenever Verity's Grandmother appeared. Melanie Welsh builds tension and twists emotions very cleverly. It's one of those delightful books that just makes you keep on reading one more chapter as you feel compelled to find out what happens. Her characters are all very individual and clearly drawn too, so you know where you are and who you're with at all times. She's obviously thought and planned the story, and the history behind it, very well and I'm hopeful that there will be another story soon that revisits these characters.
The sea plays a large part in the story, and the nautical aspects are explained well enough that I, having never sailed a boat, could easily imagine what the characters are doing on board. The final few chapters are thrillingly tense, and very exciting. Just very occasionally, when you have a new book to read by a new author, you find that you have come across a book that deserves to become a classic. This was definitely one of those books. I loved it all the way through, from start to finish, and would highly recommend it to adventure-loving children, and adults too.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Heart of Stone by Melanie Welsh.
For more magical stories try something by the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mistress of the Storm by Melanie Welsh at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Mistress of the Storm by Melanie Welsh at Amazon.com.
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