Before starting this book, the reader is shown a charming map of a mysterious place named Esperance, capital of Aeolia, a map that hints at what’s to come. The story opens in our world, on the wedding of Esme’s father and her new stepmother, Penelope. Esme isn’t happy and she is unable to disguise it. She’s missing her mother, Ariane, who was lost at sea presumed dead. Esme is a lonely child, little liked by the villagers of Picton Island where her father is lighthouse keeper. An outsider, she wants nothing more than to find out what happened to her mum.
When Penelope’s sister, the despicable Mavis, moves in to mind Esme while her father has his honeymoon, Esme experiences strange headaches and dizzy spells. She has a vision of her mum and dad and is puzzled by it. Her anguish over her mother intensifies and she decides to take off to Spindrift Island where Ariane disappeared many years before. As her quest unfolds, Esme is swept unexpectedly into anotherworld, the world of Esperance, where she makes new friends and continues her search.
What unfolds is a series of adventures large and small, of dragons and other mythical creatures, and of special magical gifts. To say more would spoil the enchantment.
Foster has a fluid, engaging narrative style. The writing is simply exquisite. The pacing, plot twists and characterisation are just perfect. Depictions of the city of Esperance are conveyed in vivid and captivating detail. The various threads and elements of the story are woven together beautifully, culminating in an ending filled with wonder and surprises.
This is a story of loss and searching, of ancient Greek myths, of the artistic temperament and supposed insanity, of minds capable of accessing the inner realms the rational mind cannot reach. Absorbing, enchanting, whimsical, Esme’s Wish is a story to lose yourself in. I would recommend this book to readers one and all. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Esme’s Wish is the debut novel and first in a series by Australian author Elizabeth Foster.
Esme’s mother had disappeared seven years ago, thought to have been lost at sea. Her father is now remarrying but Esme doesn’t believe the ‘lost at sea’ claim and while her father is away on his honeymoon she plans to do some investigating of her own. While searching for clues about her mother’s disappearance Esme finds a doctor’s note about her mother’s headaches, delusions and talk of other worlds. Was her mother ill and nobody told her?
After following an eagle down to the beach Esme notices a lustrous shell in a rock pool but as she reaches for the shell she is pulled into the pool and plummeted down into its depths. When she surfaces she is in anotherworld. She is befriended by Daniel and this is where Esme’s real journey begins. As Esme tries to uncover what happened to her mother more mysteries are revealed that will have a lasting effect on Esperance and its people.
Foster’s writing is beautifully descriptive and flows effortlessly. Esme has a strong personality thriving in seclusion after being shunned by most of the town folk. She soon becomes firm friends with Daniel and Lillian and learns to trust and rely on others. I liked that the three teens could be friends without a love triangle in sight.
I loved the town of Esperance with its watery canals, gondolas and bridges which reminded me of Venice. The world of Aeolia is tied to the Gods and frequent mentions of Greek Gods through statues and paintings gives scope for additional research.
The magical element was enchanting; my favourite being Akitsu’s shop with its enchanted paper fish, birds, beetles and butterflies all so delightfully imagined and brought to life on paper.
The story wraps up well, however also leaves on opening for the sequel Esme’s Gift.
Recommended for readers 10+ years Content: battle with a spectre
The story starts off with a wedding, but unfortunately for Esme it is not a happy one. Esme lost her mother when she was only eight years old and has never been able to move on. Esme never truly believed her mother had disappeared at sea and spurred on by her father moving on, she decides the time has come to go off on her own and discover the truth. What she soon discovers is anotherworld full of magic, myth and secrets.
Back home Esme and her mother were always considered outsiders and as a child Esme struggled to find real friendship. On her journey Esme meets Daniel and Lillian, both offering friendship and whatever help they can. At first she finds it hard to believe that anyone would want to help her, let alone be her friend. She learns to trust in Daniel and Lillian as they join and help her on her journey.
The writing followed well, was easy to read and the story was steadily paced for the most part, kicking up with a action packed fast paced last few chapters. I raced through the last few chapters desperate to know how the story ends - and if that isn't a sign of a good story, then I don't know what is.
The bad 'guy' was deplorable and the good 'guys' easily likeable. The setting for the story, a mythological wonderland. There were Dragons - always a plus. And they rode them - even more of a plus!
The ending gives us just enough resolution for it to be satisfying, but also leaves enough unanswered that it makes you really want to read the next book.
Esme’s Wish is a delightful fantasy that captures the beauty of a watery, magical world, the trust of true friendship, and the strength of one girl’s loyalty to her mother.
Esme longs to discover what happened to her mother, who disappeared several years ago. Everyone else, including her father, have moved on, but for Esme, the unanswered questions plague her. Until, in her search, she finds herself magically transported to the world of Aeolia. There she discovers that her mother had an extra life full of art, magic, and danger. With her two new friends, Esme begins to uncover the mystery of what really happened to her mother.
I had Esme’s Wish sitting on my bedside bookshelf (thanks very much to the author for a copy) for a month before finally getting around to reading it. Why, oh why did I delay? Because Esme’s Wish is delightful right from the very first page. And I loved that first page. Hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Esme is a strong and independent main character. She is determined to find answers to her mother’s disappearance, stands up to the people she dislikes, physically defends herself, and jumps straight into the action. But she is neither unkind or infallible. As she makes friends with Lillian and Daniel, as she discovers more about the wonders of Aeolia, and as she continues her search for her mother, Esme grows in confidence and strength.
Esme’s Wish is the perfect middle-grade to young-adult crossover novel. It has a child-like quality and Esme comes across as younger than her fifteen year, but the book is written in a way that will capture the attention of older readers. Aside from a little mild fantasy violence, there is nothing to stop younger readers picking it up. Esme’s Wish is very well written and crafted with obvious care. Who wouldn’t enjoy a book that employs words like avaricious, phantasmic, and nebulous (and that was just from one page).
The world Elizabeth Foster has created is unique and yet similar enough to our own world for both Esme and the reader to fall into it quite easily. But there are benefits to the magical world of Aeolia, including dragons, the ability to breathe underwater, and magical Gifts. I loved how some of the magic crossed over with science, for example one man’s Gift is echolocation, while another’s is the ability to move and shape water. The history and culture of the world also had a number of similarities to our own, rooted in Greek history and mythology, which is explained when Esme learns the history of Aeolia.
Overall, Esme’s Wish is a delightful fantasy, one I will greatly enjoy sharing with our library’s readers. It is the first book in the series, and while it has a very satisfactory ending (I love how everything was neatly and cleverly tied up), I can’t wait to read the sequel, Esme’s Gift, which promises more adventure, friendship, and magic.
The author provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.