Lily by Holly Webb
|Lily by Holly Webb|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Georgie takes up all her mother's attention, while her younger sister Lily runs wild, neglected and dirty. But when Lily discovers the damage their mother's lessons have done to her sibling, and that she intends to use Georgie's magical gifts to commit a terrible deed, they flee the island on which they have been imprisoned all their lives.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Magic has been banned by the Queen since a magician called Marius Grange killed the King thirty years before. All the old magical families have been exiled, Lily's father has been sent to prison on the mainland for protesting against the decree, and their servants have to be paid extra wages to stay on the island where Lily, her sister Georgie and their mother now live.
Lily finds it hard not to resent the attention given to her sister. They used to play together all day long, but now Georgie spends her life at her mother's side, learning spells. Lily hasn't even seen her for ages, and her mother pays her younger daughter no attention whatsoever. Her clothes are grubby and too small, she spends her days alone apart from a few snatched hours of exploring with the silent servant boy Peter, and she relies for food on the haphazard generosity of the cook and the maids. She cannot even read and write until one of them takes it upon herself to teach the abandoned, half-feral child. Once Lily can read she manages to take and hide a few ancient spell books, and tries to perform magic in the privacy of the old ruined orangery. But she has very little success until the day she draws a copy of an old painting and brings a little pug called Henrietta to life. The dog can talk, and wastes no time in informing Lily that she hasn't eaten for the past sixty years, since the painting was made. The lonely little girl has a friend at last.
A chance meeting with her sister is a terrible shock to Lily. Georgie is wan and listless, her thoughts elsewhere most of the time, and she is clearly under a powerful spell. The two girls and the outspoken Henrietta overhear their mother discuss a plan to use Georgie to kill the queen: if she fails to do so she will be discarded, and Lily will be used to perform the wicked deed instead. The girls and the pug flee, with the help of Peter, and find themselves for the first time in their lives in the world beyond the island.
This is an excellently observed section of the book, full of surprises and comedy as the two girls realise how little they know about how they should dress and behave. Even Henrietta, who has been in a painting for sixty years, knows more about the world than they do. Georgie tries desperately to protect them all with her magic, and soon discovers that although she has had no schooling, Lily is a naturally gifted and powerful magician. It becomes all the more important to ensure the little group is never found by their murderous mother or her sinister lady's maid Marten. In the final section of the book they find refuge in a theatre, working (ironically) as assistants to a stage magician, and all goes well . . . until Marten finds them, that is.
This is an excellent story, with three-dimensional, interesting characters and colourful settings. But the plot is clearly intended as the first of a series, and this book suffers somewhat as a result. The intriguing Peter, who can neither hear nor speak, disappears early on in the book – surely a character with such a mysterious background must have his story revealed? And although the two girls escape from one imminent and horrible danger, their two quests, to free Georgie from the spell which binds her will, and to find their father, are left unresolved in a rather unsatisfying way. So, despite the many pleasures of this book, and the excitements in store, it cannot receive five stars, which is a pity. Still, it is well worth reading: fun and laughter jostle danger and even a little horror, and many young girls will finish it looking forward keenly to the next one in the series.
Further reading suggestion: Holly Webb has written another series, about a girl called Rose, who also has magical powers. Bookbag recommends Rose and the Magician's Mask and Rose and the Silver Ghost. And readers will love twelve-year-old Kat, the feisty, funny heroine of A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lily by Holly Webb at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Lily by Holly Webb at Amazon.com.
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