This exciting mystery is a worldwind of trickery, magic spells and deceit. At times I hadn’t the faintest idea what was going on or what was really true. And when a chapter finished with ‘it was going to get even worse’ I wondered whether I really could cope with reading on! This is hiding-behind-the-sofa, stuff, nothing worse, and I’m sure most of today’s youngsters will love it.
Lydia lives in a strange mansion, which is freezing, and eats little but turnips, since her parents, who are mean, nasty and horrible, tell her what they eat would poison her. None of their pizza or chocolate for her. She slogs away all day and night keeping the mansion in good working order, feeding and caring for the geckos that are her parents’ pride and joy, and being troubled by personal snowstorms that follow her about. Lydia reads all the how-to books she can find to learn how to fix things. She never reads for pleasure because there are no fiction books in the library. At all. Her parents have burnt them all to keep warm.
However, stranger things start to happen – books change their titles, kittens appear out of snowstorms, and Lydia finds… a book, telling the adventures of a girl called Lydia! From then on, spurred by vague memories of a time when her parents loved her, Lydia searches for the truth, following clues and strange hints in dreams. I particularly loved the improvisation of her climbing gear in order to climb the ice-covered steps.
This is a beautifully told, multi-layered story, with engaging description of a world within worlds. At the same time it is somewhat creepy, and gets creepier when Lydia discovers more books in her secret room, starring Lydia and written by Christine McMahon. Were it not for these internal advertisements I would have given the book five stars – it just seemed to sap the story of its strength. Ms McMahon does say at the front that the book is written for her daughter Lydia, and I’m sure she enjoyed having them read to her. For the reader who isn’t Lydia, it makes it too exclusive.
Don’t let that put you off though – it’s a really good tale with great twists and clever reinvention of a familiar world that is subtly different.