All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The House At The Edge Of Magic by Amy Sparkes

on February 26, 2021

The House At The Edge Of Magic
Amy Sparkes
Walker Books AUS
2021, 240p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Nine is an orphan pickpocket determined to escape her life in the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. When she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, she knocks on its tiny door and watches it grow into a huge, higgledy-piggeldy house.

Inside she finds a host of magical and brilliantly funny characters, including Flabberghast – a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch – and a hideous troll housekeeper who’s emotionally attached to his feather duster. They have been placed under an extraordinary spell, which they are desperate for Nine to break. If she can, maybe they can offer her a new life in return… 

I don’t read a lot of children’s/middle grade books but I like to pick up one occasionally as my younger child fits pretty neatly into this demographic at the moment and I’m always looking for ways to encourage both my kids to read. Both of them are very good readers (oldest in particular, reads well above his age level) but both are lazy readers and generally only read when other options for entertainment are removed from their lives. Occasionally however, something piques their interest and they’ll read for fun but this is very rare. I’m always trying to find that thing though, that will motivate them.

This book centres around a girl named Nine – named by the man who ‘found’ her as an orphan, clutching the one thing that means something to her, a music box. He so named her Nine because she was his ninth foundling and he works them as pickpockets in the local streets and markets. They are to bring him trinkets for their keep but it’s a miserable existence and Nine longs to escape. She cannot however, because he holds her music box hostage and she would never leave without the one thing that predates her pickpocket existence.

Nine steals a trinket from a woman which, to her surprise, grows into a huge house. The occupants within are under a curse and only Nine can help save them from it. The house is a mishmash of curses and tricks within the overall curse – for example the occupants cannot even make tea, because opening the tea cabinet brings horrid consequences. There’s a riddle that Nine must help the occupants solve and in return for their freedom, they’ll offer her the means to change her life forever. It’s a temptation Nine cannot resist, the lure of escaping her life of kept thievery.

If anyone has ever seen or read Howl’s Moving Castle, this felt very much like it was inspired by that work – a curse, a magic house, strange occupants, an overall lesson to learn etc. There are some differences of course but it felt like there were very similar vibes. Nine is a really appealing protagonist – she’s been raised in a pretty awful situation, used by someone who has power over her, made to pickpocket for trinkets to provide to him. She loves books, often sneaking into the local library. She has a bit of a smart mouth and she’s very determined, longing for the days she can escape and live her own life. Although she at first wants nothing to do with the house, its unusual occupants or the curse only she can apparently break, eventually the lure of the riches the young wizard occupant offers her is too powerful to ignore. If she’s successful, she’ll be able to have the life she dreams of and she can take her music box and leave her current life behind.

There was a lot to like about this, there’s a lot of action and probably plenty of laughs from the strange happenings in the house that are part of the curse. When I was reading it, I was trying to imagine what my younger son would find funny and I think there are quite a lot of things that would amuse him. The characters inside the house: Flabberghast the wizard, Eric the troll/housekeeper and Dr Spoon, a chemist lamenting his separation from his research partner Dish are quite funny (especially Eric, I think he was my favourite and I wished Nine had warmed to him a little sooner) and I think readers would relate to Nine’s bafflement and sometimes even irritation at some of their antics.

However I did find the characters a bit underdeveloped and the ending a little rushed. I wanted to know more about Nine, more about the wizard as well. Even more about Eric! I feel as though there was not enough depth to them and that often they created more questions than gave answers. Nine would drop a hint about her origins and then it would be forgotten, not mentioned again. I liked the lessons learned at the end though and I suppose this could either be turned into a series or left alone, depending on the author’s whims.

It was okay – an enjoyable read but for me, not an amazing one. I felt there was a lot of missed opportunity with the characters and even with some of the plot in the end. It felt a bit slow in the beginning, like it feels like it takes an age for Nine to realise her task in breaking the curse and then at the end there’s so much happening and it feels rushed and all the characters are somewhat overwrought which creates a bit of a chaotic feel. I think there could’ve been more!


Book #29 of 2021

One response to “Review: The House At The Edge Of Magic by Amy Sparkes

  1. Izabel Brekilien says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t love it as much as you did. I love the cover though, it makes me want to visit the house (and hope not to get lost in it !) .

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