Sophia the Flame Sister (Spell Sisters) by Amber Castle and Mary Hall
|Sophia the Flame Sister (Spell Sisters) by Amber Castle and Mary Hall|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A better-than-average early reading book with a good story. You're probably going to end up buying quite a few books though!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: March 2012|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Guinevere (generally known as Gwen) is something of a tomboy and she'd much rather be out doing archery practice with the boys than practicing her curtsey and brushing her aunt's hair. Will and some of the other pages are dismissive of her because she's a girl, but Arthur is a little more kindly. One day, out in the woods with her friend Flora, she discovers the island of Avalon which is in a sorry state. The evil Morgana Le Fay has imprisoned her sisters who hold the spells which keep the island as it should be and it's now up to Gwen and Flora to rescue the Spell Sisters and return Avalon to full health.
It's 'inspired by' rather than 'based on' the Arthurian legend. There's a lady of the lake but the sword in the stone becomes a pendant with magic properties which only the chosen one can remove from the stone. Arthur makes but a fleeting appearance: this is a book about girls and for girls, but that doesn't mean that it's girly. Gwen is a feisty spirit who knows her own mind and she and Flora have plenty of adventures in the course of their quest.
The evil Morgana Le Fay is just one of nine sisters and she's imprisoned the other eight in various places and stolen their magical powers. That should give you a hint as to how many books you might be about to buy over the course of a few months. Each one reads well as a standalone, but there's the sneak preview of the next book in the series, the stickers which build into an Avalon landscape and a website from which scenes to decorate can be downloaded. It's subtle. There's value. But don't kid yourself that you're going to be buying anything less than the whole series.
Is it worth it? There's good value here. The stories have more layers than the usual graded readers. The writing is good, the vocabulary is challenging and the story pulls you in and makes you want to know what's going to happen next. The chapters are short and liberally sprinkled with illustrations so the young reader is going to get a real sense of achievement in reading these books. We've seen Lily the Forest Sister and it's of the same quality.
If I have a quibble it's the illustrations. It wasn't that they left me cold - they left me annoyed. There's a drawing of Will and Arthur which looks more like the aftermath of a skateboarding accident than some laddish horseplay. And talking of horses - there are pictures of the girls on horseback which made me wonder if the girls' anatomy was radically different. Yes - I know - I'm picky, but I believe that children should get the best and learn to expect it.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For another series of quests for the emerging reader we can recommend The Secret Mermaid by Sue Mongredien.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sophia the Flame Sister (Spell Sisters) by Amber Castle and Mary Hall at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Sophia the Flame Sister (Spell Sisters) by Amber Castle and Mary Hall at Amazon.com.
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