Book Review: Esme’s Wish (Esme Series #1) ~ Elizabeth Foster | ★★★★✰

A sweet book set in a cool, magical world.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Odyssey Books for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Expected rating: ★★★✰✰

Actual rating: ★★★★✰ (3,5 rounded up)

Genre: MG | Adventure | Fantasy

Read if you… love magical sea-related worlds | don’t mind YA-level writing in an MG book | are looking for stories of friendship

Why I read it: I’ve got a peculiar luck, you see. 98 times out of 100, when I look for something on the net (a word, a trope, a specific color), this thing surfaces in my life sometime later.

If you know me, you’ll know about my love for magical sea-related worlds (despite my irrational fear of the sea… yeah, go figure). Well, I’d been researching stuff on Atlantis and Lemuria and looking for books with similar worlds when I decided to log in to Netgalley for the first time in ages. Guess what I found… That’s right, a book set in a magical sea-related world.

Synopsis:

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

This inventive tale, the first in an MG-to-YA series, suits readers 10 to 14 years.

Winner of a 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Award for best fantasy.

“A fresh new fantasy of an enchanting world.” – Wendy Orr, New York Times best selling author of Nim’s Island.

Triggers:

Mentioned death of mother, burns, earthquakes, drowning fear, mentions of defenestration, mentions of lab experiments on people, infected wound

Narration:

Third-person POV.

Fame’s overrated, friendship’s not.

Esme

Esme’s Wish does have a slow start (it perked up at around 33%). The beginning is uneventful and lasts too long without any exciting action. However, if you stick around for long enough, things do get more interesting when you’re introduced to the new world.

There is no denying it, the pace is rather slow during the introduction and rising action, but falls definitively too fast when it comes to the climax, which is resolved in about four pages. I was a bit bummed that the antagonists were dismissed so quickly.

The ending is a cliffhanger, but most subplot conflicts were resolved (even if some answers were a tad rushed). The right amount of question marks was left floating in the air to assure the readers’ interest in the sequel (Esme’s Gift).

Esme is a sweet main character, even if she feels a little papery at some moments of the story. Apart from her and Daniel and Lillian, we don’t really get to know the characters so they all feel a little flat and mainly filling holes in the background.

Some of the conflicts Esme has to fight are internal ones: she has to discover truths about herself and her mother, as well as about friendship. These are very important topics for early teens, so kudos for that.

As someone who has suffered bullying and has trust issues, I really appreciate the message of healthy friendship: Esme’s friends stick by, no matter her struggles or the truths they uncover, because they care about her and want to help her.

Perhaps two full stars of my rating are entirely awarded to the setting of the novel. Even if some of the descriptive paragraphs drag a little, the scenery is beautiful (I dreamt of it). I would have enjoyed more worldbuilding, though (this is not entirely a complaint, just a remark to stress how much I loved the magic of it).

Aeolia is a world parallel to ours, accessed through portals that are almost impossible to find, where magic is an everyday thing and people can breathe underwater. There are dragons, sirens, people with the Gift of walking on water, flying lights of the sea, and more dream-like details, including a magic postal service.

If you’re looking for Atlantis- or Lemuria-like worlds, then you should consider visiting Aeolia.

Esme’s Wish is labeled as an MG book, but the writing is more YA, complexity-speaking. Foster’s style is one of those that are neither astounding nor appalling, just right.

I didn’t find any special words of which I wanted to take note of.

Problematic issues

  • There was this talk of Daniel burning Lilian when they were kids. It was disturbing, most of all because it was laughed at and Lilian somehow ended up being at fault for being upset??
  • Even if Esme dislikes her step-aunt (and I take her side), it was incredibly wrong to have disappeared from home for over a month without any concern for her. The step-aunt most probably had to call the police and got into huge trouble. Plus, what if Esme’s father had been contacted a few days after her disappearance? Even if he was on honeymoon, he must have been reachable in some way.

This is a sweet MG-slash-YA story, a little too slow at the beginning and too rushed at the end, yet with good moments in-between and a nice message on friendship and fighting for the ones you love.

To be honest, I don’t know if my 12-year-old sister would like it (mostly because the writing is too advanced). Yet, I read YA when I was supposed to read MG, so to each their own.

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Would you read an MG story that has YA-level writing? What books with a sea-related world do you like the most? Do you have the superpower peculiar luck of attracting stuff you’d been looking for?

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Esme’s Wish (Esme Series #1) ~ Elizabeth Foster | ★★★★✰

  1. I haven’t read many books set by the sea, unfortunately. IT’S SO SAD I LOVE SEA BOOKS SO MUCH but most turn out to be fantasy and …. my relationship with fantasy rn is very strained and we’re just not getting along. BUT I HEARD THERE’S GOING TO BE A MODERN SIREN FANTASY AND IT’S COMING OUT IN JULY? IDK WHAT IT’S CALLED BUT IT SOUNDS AMAZING

    Like

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