Hot Key books and Piccadilly Press are both imprints of the larger Bonnier Zaffre publisher, and they send out shared emails to their bloggers list.
What I didn’t realise as I requested this book was that it was Piccadilly, and therefore middle grade, not Hot Key, and therefore YA, but in the end, I was thoroughly glad that I got an unexpected whirl into magical Victorian London and a main character who was more interested in keeping her day dresses pristine than saving the world.
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…
After the rather sudden departure of her mother, Annabel is sent to live with her aunts. They claim to be Shoreditch witches, and from a very old family line of them too. They’re keen to introduce Annabel to their world of transformation, potions and flying broomsticks (which seem to have strong personalities of their own) but are horrified when Annabel announces not only does she not know any magic, young ladies shouldn’t believe in such things. But before Annabel has time to decide whether she does or not, she is swept into an urgent quest.
The trees of Highgate have been whispering to Kitty – an extraordinary urchin of a girl, who Annabel’s aunts seem very fond of – and so have the fairies. They talk of a terrible, dark magic that wants to devour all of London. And of a most magical girl who might be able to stop it . . .
This sparkling and enchanting story is sure to bewitch you, so curl up in front of the fire, and prepare to be swept away . . .
A Most Magical Girl is, in many ways, a standard special snowflake girl gets wrapped up in an adventure bigger than she could have imagined, with trolls, dragons, brownies, and a collection of very old and pretty useless benevolent magicians. But it had some really interesting approaches to it, not least because Annabel as the heroine actually has no interest in magic whatsoever, nor does she particularly want to be the one to save the city.
Juxtaposed against prim and proper Annabel, then, is wild girl Kitty, who knows all the secret places that the brownies and the faeries still reside, and is more than a little mysterious, and terribly cranky. Not only does Annabel get sent on an adventure with little more than a wing and a prayer, but Kitty is reluctantly dragged alone and resents every second of it, too.
I really enjoyed this sweet and charming middle grade fantasy adventure, and thought that the characters were interesting and fleshed out enough to carry what could have been a very mundane story. Kitty was definitely the most interesting of the main characters, with Hafwen the troll also commanding a few laughs and some sweet moments.
The book stands up well on its own, but has also left space for a sequel, which I could be easily swept into reading.