Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

Everyone at school feels sorry for weird Belladonna Johnson. Her parents were killed in a tragic car accident last year and she lives with her grandmother. At least, that's what they think. Actually, Belladonna's inherited power to see ghosts kicked in right after the funeral - and she lives with her parents, same as always....except for the drifting through walls thing. Belladonna is terrified that someday she'll start talking to someone, realize they're a ghost and no one else can see them, and be forever branded as the ultimate school weirdo.

 But suddenly that's no longer a problem: all the ghosts are disappearing. With the help of Steve, an incipient juvenile delinquent, Elsie, an old school ghost, and her own mysterious and unexpected powers, Belladonna must try to save the ghosts - and the worlds of the Living and the Dead.

This was a fast-paced, enjoyable adventure fantasy with plenty of humor. It has lots of little British "bits" slang and little cultural things for anglophiles to enjoy. While in some ways it's fairly predictable; female outcast becomes powerful sorceress heroine, amiable but apparently useless boy becomes warrior hero, etc. etc., the writing is seamless and Stringer easily blends two separate and familiar plots, the classic fantasy quest journey and the newer paranormal abilities theme, into a fun adventure. The ending felt a little hurried, with the sudden introduction of various powerful goddess-type characters like the Nomials, but it fit in with Belladonna's relatives never telling her anything. There were a lot of loose ends, like Aunt Dierdre's involvement with the Hunt, Steve's mother - what's going on there? but presumably they'll be addressed in the next book.

Verdict: Recommended for fans of Harry Potter and the many new ghost books coming out.

Some favorite funny bits, mostly about Steve.

"Steve took it all in stride with a 'this-too-shall-pass" attitude that made it all but impossible for anyone to motivate him to do anything at all."

"'Considering how often you're in trouble, I would've expected you to put up a better show,' said Belladonna, walking away. 'There's not usually any point,' explained Steve. 'I reckon it's better to just fess up, take whatever they're dishing out, and get on with things. Explanations usually just extend the agony.' 'Oh, well,' said Belladonna sarcastically, 'at least you've thought about it.'"

" know, minor infractions."
There was silence for a moment, then the braziers flared up, the orange flame turning red.
"Such as the explosives on Mr. Morris's shoes?" boomed the voice.
"Or the spiders in Philip Jones's desk? Or the treacle in Sophie Warren's shoes? Or the mass release of the lab mice?"
Steve began to smile in happy recollection as his greatest hits were recited.

ISBN: 0312387636; Published September 2009 by Feiwel and Friends; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library; Added to my personal wishlist

No comments: