I would like to claim that I requested this one from Netgalley because I was mindful that it was one of my yearly targets to extend my reading of children’s fiction – but it wouldn’t be true. I picked it out because I liked the cover. So would this most shallow of reasons pay off?
Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn’t provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it’s this exciting!
I found the three child protagonists all appealing and believable. The boys, in particular, I thought were done well. I also very much liked the way Dyer handled the major life event that brought the boys and their mother across to resettle in Britain – I had assumed one thing was the problem, but it turned out to be something quite different. And I also liked the way Jake’s mind worked in his attempts to fix things – it was such a childlike way of looking at how to deal with it. Dyer has clearly spent time around children of this age and manages to depict them in crisis without assuming they will behave as adults do – they don’t. She also managed to show the depth of their trauma without telling us, so if the readers don’t know what they are looking at, they’ll likely miss it. Which is just fine as far as I’m concerned. Young readers without this sort of damage in their lives won’t necessarily pick up the extent of their suffering.
Dyer also serves up a fair dollop of humour along with the chaos and excitement. I love the depiction of the Queen – whether or not it’s correct, I thought it was a delight. Overall, this is a charming, enjoyable book that delivers an engrossing magical adventure with some hefty family issues wrapped up in the story that will speak to the many fatherless children out there. Recommended for independent readers between eight and eleven years old, depending on maturity.
While I obtained the arc of Magic in the City from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.