I began reading this book whilst drinking coffee at Paddington Station, nothing strange so far, but then as I got to the line about the strange screeching noise, it happened!
“It let out a screech that was wild and full of rage! …….It was a noise that had not been heard for many years.”
Yes, there was a terrible noise reverberating through the station, it sounded like an angle grinder cutting through metal bars; given that there is building work in that area of the station I can only assume this was part of the building works.
The story is set in the small village of Woolington Well, where archaeologist Professor Martin has been asked to excavate, prior to a shopping centre development. Her daughter Mary-Kate has to accompany her, as it is the school holiday and her grandmother will be away on holiday. this should have been a very simple job, but on arrival at the village, they are met by a series of strange events. Why are saucers of milk outside most front doors and why are so many houses shut up? Meeting the village librarian and Lord Woolington (Lord of the Manor) they are met with tales of a legendary beast called the Wyrm, although Lord W insists that it is all make believe. Whilst her mother begins her work on the dig site, Mary-Kate and her new friend Arabella (daughter of Lord W) start investigating the history of the Wyrm and particularly the claim that it “likes children”. What happens next really adds to the action and makes several people change their mind about the legend and whether there can be any truth in the tale.
Although this brilliant story is set in a very small village and has a very limited number of characters, it really does not lack in excitement, intrigue or action. I love the map of the village and its surroundings, so that you can follow the action as it takes place. But can someone tell me where the church is? There is a cemetery, but no church building, so is there a story behind this omission? We have a beautiful rural idyll and the idea of a huge shopping centre in the middle of the village is unthinkable. In real life I think there would be outrage and the planners would hopefully stop it. One of the things that the two girls did discover is that the legend of the Wyrm and the odd happenings only occur when work is being done to the Village Square and the Well, after which the village is named, so is there a link?
Mary-Kate Martin is someone that you can feel great empathy with. She suffers from a great deal of anxiety and needs the comfort of her special treasures, including her globe stress ball and I have my own version of this, as you can see from the picture at the side. She also needs the reassurance of things being balanced, even down to glittery shoes to go with the glittery bag. Mary-Kate seems to display many feelings that we might understand as being neuro-diverse, yet she manages to overcome many of her anxieties when she really wants to find things out. Her new friend Arabella is also a great support and although an outgoing, bouncy extrovert, she is willing to listen to Mary-Kate and even follow her when needed.
A really interesting element of this story is that we don’t have a completely evil villain. Both the Wyrm and Lord Woolington have reasons for their behaviour and it is just a matter of finding a way around these differences. We also have the relationships between both of the girls and their respective parents and it is good to see that they have strong and positive connections; which enables them to feel they can get support when needed. This is an absolute delight to read and I love Mary-Kate and how she copes with her worries; it really is a five star book. Thank you Pushkin Press for inviting me to be part of this celebration for such a great book and congratulations to Karen Foxlee for a fabulous new heroine.
I am delighted to say that when looking at the author’s web that there is a second title due out on 28th March 2024. I have got my fingers crossed that it will be available for review.
Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who writes for both kids and grown-ups. She grew up in the outback mining town Mount Isa and still frequently dreams she is walking barefoot along the dry Leichhardt River there.
One of four children she started telling stories when she was young. She filled countless small exercise books with sweeping sagas of orphaned girls illustrated with pictures cut from the back of Reader’s Digest magazines.
She has worked as an underground cable mapper, pool kiosk attendant, library assistant and hotel laundry hand and eventually became a registered nurse. All the while she never gave up her secret dream of becoming a writer. ….
Karen lives in South East Queensland with her daughter and several animals, including two wicked parrots, who frequently eat parts of her laptop when she isn’t looking. Her passions are her daughter, writing, day-dreaming, baking, running and swimming in the sea.