Review of Unseen Magic

Unseen Magic Unseen Magic
by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Intermediate    Greenwillow    352 pp.    g
2/22    978-0-06-305798-2    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-305800-2    $9.99

In the tiny town of Aldermere in the midst of California’s redwood forest, magic is a given. It makes life unpredictable—an unlabeled door may lead anywhere, for one thing—but for Finley, it offers a way to forget her anxieties. Whisper a memory into a cup of magical tea, drink the tea, and instantly that memory is gone and she’s calm and confident. So when the tea shop closes because of an accident, Fin sneaks in and makes her own tea, inadvertently creating Teafin, her “evil doppelgänger,” from her used tea leaves. When a rash of petty crimes disturbs the town, she’s sure Teafin is the culprit and vows to stop her. Not all of Lloyd-Jones’s sentences pull their weight in this lengthy tale, but the inventiveness and charm of its magical details balance that out. Aside from its interest in Fin’s suppressed traumatic memories (the theme behind the doppelgänger), the novel celebrates the regional. Dogberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, and blackberries are sold at the Foragers’ Market, giving more than a nod to wild fare and sustainable living; indeed, the town’s dilemma about preserving its magic is very much the thorny issue of conservation and protection. Lloyd-Jones provides a measure of humor, too. “Aren’t you evil?” one character asks Teafin. “I’m just uninhibited,” Teafin declares.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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