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Publisher's Summary

Magical machines, wizards, witches, mysterious underworlds, a race against time - and two most magical girls.

Annabel Grey has been brought up to be a very proper Victorian young lady. But being 'proper' isn't always easy - especially when you can sometimes see marvellous (as well as terrifying) things in puddles. But parlour tricks such as these are nothing compared to the world that Annabel is about to enter....

©2016 Karen Foxlee (P)2017 Bolinda audio

Critic Reviews

"Deliciously complex and convincingly detailed." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Richly described, from dark, foggy, sinister London to an unwelcome delay in the troll dwellings of Under London." ( School Library Journal)

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AMAZING!

I adored this book, as I do everything Karen Foxlee writes. Victorian London, strange witches, visions in puddles and a machine that eats sorrow! Just gorgeous.

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  • M. Tweedale
  • 09-02-18

A disappointing middle and ending

A Most Magical Girl started out very promising. I very much enjoyed the first third of the book—the world building is especially fun—but it drags throughout the middle act and the third is perfunctory, playing out exactly as you'd expect.

The book frequently undercuts its own tension, presenting a problem, telling the reader the solution in the process, and then plays catch up with the lead characters. It cuts back to the villain frequently throughout the story, but these scenes rarely add anything to the story. They serve only to generate atmosphere and to mechanically introduce tension. It almost feels like reading the same scene over and over again. The repetition deflates the momentum.

There are more problematic elements, which will involve SPOILERS...

...

...OK, so the story revolves heavily around a prophecy of "a most magical girl" that will save the day. This is the lead, Annabelle, a girl born into privilege and blessed with the nobility of her blood. She knows very little of magic at the beginning of the story, and in a very short space of time ends up being the best. There are no twists or turns on this journey, and she often succeeds simply because she is the chosen one and she is good without ever actually learning to be good, despite being rather spoiled and selfish at the beginning of the story.

This is all built on a world in which witches and wizards of noble birth are defending good magic against the bad. Even before the story begins, these are an ageing generation, not as strong as they used to be and with no promising youngsters to fill their shoes when they are gone. Even before the bad guy comes along, good magic is in a dire state, yet this matter is never expanded upon further.

Rather curiously though, there are youngsters that could fill the shoes of the ageing good wizards, though the book doesn't acknowledge this. One of the leads, a street urchin called Kitty, is an extremely powerful witch, and while all the ageing witches and wizards recognise this, they never once consider that she could be the one to take up their mantle.

The story seems to be hinting that good magic is fading because the good witches and wizards aren't really that good, that the fault of the older generation is that they only see power in noble bloodlines, and yet that turns out to not be the case. All these elements are irrelevant to the plot in the end; there simply as window dressing.

A far more interesting story would have been if Kitty had been the most magical girl, but everyone had assumed it was Annabelle because of her noble blood. Annabelle has spent her whole life raised in a gilded cage of expectations, and by stepping into the role of the most magical girl, she's exchanged one cage for another. It's not a satisfying evolution for her character. It would've been far more interesting if she'd had to let go of being the most magical girl, and discovered the freedom of simply being herself, discovering her own value in supporting someone else.

No one expects anything great from Kitty, not even herself, and it would've been marvellous to see her step into a role deemed fit only for nobility. Sadly, Kitty as a character outlives her usefulness by the middle of the book. From then on her role in the story is simply to be a recipient for all Annabelle's kindnesses (as a way to demonstrate to the reader what a most magical and good girl she is) and a courier for the Morever Wand.

Kitty deserved better and Annabelle's conflicts shouldn't have been foregone conclusions because she was "the most magical girl"—it robbed the story of genuine tension. That the prejudices of the older witches and wizards were never explored or even openly acknowledged in the text, weakened the story considerably, making it feel dated despite being published only last year.