The Water and the Wild

448p. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452113869. LC 2014013372.
Gr 5–7—Since the death of her parents, a copper keepsake box in the roots of an old apple tree annually delivers a sometimes odd but always fitting response to Lottie Fiske's written requests. This year, however, Lottie wants something more than hair bows; she wants a cure for her best friend Eliot Walsch's terminal illness. The unexpected response is a formidable girl named Adelaide who takes Lottie "root shooting" through the apple tree to Iris Gate, the family home in a hidden world of sprites, wisps, danger, and magic. Adelaide's father, Moritasgus Wilfer, a healer and a friend of Lottie's parents, has been watching over her. He is arrested and imprisoned by the Southerly Guard who, at the behest of Starkling, King of the Southerly Court, demands that the healer turn over the medicine for the "otherwise incurable" that Lottie hopes will save Eliot. Lottie, Adelaide, her brother Oliver, and his friend Fife set out to rescue Moritasgus, and along the perilous way Lottie discovers her destiny. An eventful quest through a well-built fantasy world is a strong crowd-pleaser here offered with flavorful prose reminiscent of early Susan Cooper. Fantastical occurrences emerge organically from a well-imagined terrain peopled with inhabitants whose actions—saving a father, a friend, even an entire world—have potentially lethal consequences. Characters are effectively evoked ("Lottie Fiske, like most sharp and odd persons in this world, was having a miserable school experience. She had the audacity to not be very pretty or rich or even stupid, and at least one of these qualities was essential for a girl in a place like Kemble School.") and distinctly etched, as are the magical elements of New Albion.
VERDICT Given the arcadian pace of the journey overall, the lightning-fast conclusion is somewhat anticlimactic, but readers who have engaged with this congenial world may just turn to the first page and begin again.

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