August Book Review: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume

This novel follows the adventures of a young boy by the name of Ewan Pendle as he struggles to find his place in the world. As an unexpected twist turns his life on its head, Ewan begins to discover a place where he might just belong after all, with friends like Mathilde and Enid that he can count on. Between monstrous white wraiths, a possible betrayal inside the walls of his new home, and a training regime that threatens to break Ewan’s spirits, this is a heart-warming coming-of-age story with plenty of creativity to keep things interesting.

With moments that made me happily reminiscent of the Harry Potter series – the idea of a trio at the helm of a narrative woven with excitement, mystery, suspense, and a little comedy, Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith fits neatly into the kind of fiction all children love to grow up with. It’s the kind of tale to fuel imaginations which, I think we can all agree, is one of literature’s superpowers.

I enjoyed that the story started in media res, thrusting readers into the midst of the action without having to wait to be eased into this fictional world. Sometimes a narrative of this genre can take a while to unfold, but I didn’t find that here. Despite the fantasy element, there are some genuinely human themes that help to make the narrative more believable and authentic. Underneath all the fantastical details, at the centre of it all, this is a story about a foster child wondering why he isn’t good enough – why no family wants to keep him and love him as their own son. As a protagonist, Ewan has a kind of childish innocence which endeared me to him.

A lot of mature themes find their way into the narrative, and this is something which has always fascinated me about children’s fiction. Despite the young audience these stories often appeal to, adult themes are always prevalent. There’s something wonderful about that because it’s almost like a hidden meaning that you can come to discover later on when you’re older and wiser, even though you believed that you’d already extracted all the meaning from the story the first time around. I feel like this book offers that; there’s a possibility to return to the story to find that it holds new meaning every time you read it.

The idea of a world existing parallel to our own has always intrigued me and I think it makes a good premise for any story. A world that can include anything – where anything can happen and we can be anything we want to be – that’s always going to be a thrilling concept. Especially when that world is filled with creatures and swords and things altogether not of our world. That’s part of what makes this book so entertaining. There are so many good ideas that are really imaginative, like the brainic lamps at school…but I won’t say any more; you’ll have to read the book to find out what they do!

With the three main characters, I really liked that they were all outsiders but also very strong. Enid and Mathilde are both feisty characters and exactly the kind of female role models young girls need to see reflected in literature today. They’re not just in there for decoration or to pad out the narrative, Ewan really needs these girls to help him along the way, just as they need his friendship.

All in all, the book has good pacing. There’s always something happening, and the reader is given certain chapters solely dedicated to revealing snippets of a character’s back story. I liked the addition of mystery and the unanswered questions which are purposely left unresolved as a teaser for the sequel which may just follow. If we do get another instalment, I look forward to reading about Ewan’s journey to embrace his own identity and start to value himself more as a young man who may have had to stifle his yearning for affection, but now no longer has to. When you think about it, the emotional damage endured by orphans and foster children is really heart-breaking, but in amongst all that, this story is funny and quirky and filled with plenty to delight the imagination. It’s a really good balance of reality and fantasy, enough to leave you thinking about the fate of the characters while picturing the world in your head.

 

If you fancy taking a look for yourself, you can get your hands on a copy right here: http://a.co/hwnPDVX

 

September Book Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

 

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