Monday, June 01, 2009

New this Month: The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth

The Puzzle Ring (Scholastic) begins in Australia, where 13-year-old Hannah is living with her mother, Roz, a science teacher, but the action quickly moves to Scotland and stays there. Roz receives a letter from her missing husband’s grandmother, Belle, who pleads with her to return. Hannah finds out that her father was a Scottish lord, although the only money the family has now comes from tourist visitors.

Meeting some local children, Hannah is soon heavily involved in adventures involving a family curse, a puzzle ring that has to be reassembled before the curse can be lifted and a search for her lost father. The only problem is, she may just have to time-travel to solve all these problems. Right back to the time of Mary Queen of Scots, in fact.

In some ways, this is a good old-fashioned children’s book of the kind I, at least, grew up on. Apart from suggestions that some characters’ parents might not have been married and characters in the past indicating that Mary Queen of Scots is no better than she should be -- and you can’t change history -- there’s nothing in here that you wouldn’t find in one of those books, except for a detailed afterword that discusses the different theories of time travel and wormholes. There’s also an explanation of the story of Queen Mary and a recipe at the end for marmalade cake, as made by the author’s mother.

This book will be perfect for the little girl in your life who likes fairies, although be warned: the author makes it clear from early in the novel that the cute little fairies most children think of have no connection whatever to the ones in folklore. They’re more like Tolkien’s Elves but can also be thoroughly terrifying.

It won’t hurt children to find this out -- and they may even be interested enough to check out the “real” faerie for themselves.

Kate Forsyth is a well-known Australian writer of children’s fantasy. She actually managed to score five junior-section Aurealis Awards for a fantasy series one year!

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