Cliff McNish, Author, Geoff Taylor, Illustrator . Penguin Putnam/Fogelman $17.99 (214p) ISBN 978-0-8037-2710-6

Debut novelist McNish's imaginative if somewhat predictable fantasy begins with evil witch Dragwena kidnapping Rachel and her younger brother, Eric, and taking them to her icy world of Ithrea. There, Rachel cultivates magical gifts with help from Dragwena's kindly assistant, Morpeth, and Eric discovers a power of his own (he can break spells, but not cast them). Rachel also learns of Dragwena's sinister plan: since being banished from Earth, Dragwena has kidnapped children, killing or enslaving them, as she searches for a child with enough magical powers to help her return for revenge. Rachel could be this child, or she could be the "child-hope," a legendary hero amongst Ithrea's slaves, whom they believe can return them to Earth. A final face-off with Dragwena is inevitable, but first Rachel faces a forest of murderous trees, strange half-crow/half-baby creatures and talking killer wolves as she searches for safety. McNish draws a clear line between good and evil, and there's never a doubt who will win the showdown, but the author will win over readers with his creative descriptions of strange Ithrea, and especially examples of Rachel's magic (in one of her early spells, she creates chocolate sandwiches from nothing; later, she tries to fool the witch by filling the sky with thousands of identical clones of herself). The conclusion hints strongly at a sequel. Ages 9-12. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/17/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 3 pages - 978-0-7540-6394-0
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-7540-6143-4
Open Ebook - 978-1-4440-0273-7
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