Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

SpellbinderThe Harry Potter phenomenon did a wonderful thing for fantasy lovers–it created a world where publishers were willing to take a chance on putting out fairy tales and fantasy for kids, in almost unlimited quantity. This very plus, however, also led to a minus=not only is there a nearly infinite number of fantasy novels to read, but a great many of those novels are not very good. Thus, every fantasy I read–even though I’m probably the biggest fantasy fan in the library–I open with trepidation, fearing the worst.

Luckily, Spellbinder beat back my fears within one chapter.

Belladonna Johnson, a British 12-year-old, can see ghosts. This is handy, because it means she can still have her parents in her life, even though they died in a car accident a few years ago. In general, though, Belladonna finds her ability somewhat embarrassing–she’s already kind of a geek, and if her classmates found out she could see ghosts, she’d be even more of an outcast. She’s prepared to ignore and avoid ghosts–mostly–until the day when all of the ghosts in the world start to disappear. Not just from this world, but, it turns out, from The Other Side, as well.

Belladonna refuses to lose her parents for a second time, so she sets out immediately to find out what is happening, and how to get the ghosts back. Adults, as usual, refuse to tell her anything, so in the company of Steve Evans (the school ne’er-do-well), and Elsie (a tennis-playing ghost girl from 100 years ago), she sets out to save the world.

Belladonna is a compelling character, and her world is perfectly evoked by the writing, and very believable–even when filled with ghosts. Many fantasies recycle the same plots over and over again, but in spite of the fact that this book does, eventually, contain a sort of a quest, it remains fresh and interesting and unique. The story ties up nicely, with no cliffhangers or dissatisfaction, but with just a few short words that do not negate the possibility of a sequel. I would definitely read that sequel.

Posted by: Sarah


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Helen said,

    Sarah — I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the book! Not to mention relieved that you’d like to read a sequel, as I just finished it. Writing is so solitary (well, apart from the cats and fish) that it really is a thrill to hear that people are reading it.

    All the best,

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