Esme’s Wish, by Elizabeth Foster: review

“I’m going to find out what happened to you, Mum, no matter what.”

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says:
From the startling opening wedding scene of Esme’s Wish to the highly satisfying conclusion, this novel aimed at younger readers is a fine read for those of any age who still yearn for wondrous worlds. This older, ahem, vastly older reader, felt immersed in Aeolia’s realm of blue water and orange dragons. I enjoyed the pacing, the mystery, and also the perfect language which does not assume that younger readers will flinch from some longer words that are precisely placed for the sentence. Above all, I was gripped by a fallible child’s quest for her missing mother, Ariane, and, as her doubts grew about Ariane’s actions and motives, her determination to find the truth.

ESME 2409
The island of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh- and dragons.

The praise I’d meant to lavish can be read in so many reviews on Goodreads by delighted readers that I will take another tack: how the producer of the movie (a movie must be made) could so easily bungle it, as they have for too many once-glittering worlds (poor ruined Narnia, for instance).

“Silently she sat, swamped by a loneliness her small frame couldn’t contain”.

Bungle one: the casting. Fifteen year old Esme with hair “as stringy as sea grass matting” feels small and abandoned, lurching between nights of despair and getting her nerve up for each stage of her quest. She must not be portrayed as a drop-dead gorgeous, confident 19 year old who need only flick her hair to bring wizards and warriors rushing to her help.

“ .. Esme barrelled into a boy … A spyglass flew out of his hand, spun high in the air, and thwacked him on the side of his head on the way down.”

Bungle two: The dreaded sloppy romance angle. There isn’t one. In what a producer will itch to turn into a classic movie “meet cute” scene, Esme does run into Daniel. She also meets a girl, Lillian. The point here is that Esme, after having been shunned for years, must go about the awkward and messy business of learning what it is like to have friends.

“This library holds the largest collection of song spells in all of Aeolia”.

Bungle three:  Skimming over Esme’s search in favour of visual “action”: earthquakes, swooping dragons, and strange creatures in lagoons. Esme’s strength is that she starts with only a few clues and her determination, but keeps on at it, scouring compendiums and researching the wonderful Library. She absorbs new learning, both magic and science, plans out her moves and takes sometimes incautious lunges forward without help. No magic wands to solve it all here.

“The dots were soon recognisable as a flight of orange dragons, their wings beating like sails beneath bolting clouds”.

The world of Aeolia is breathtaking, and the producer’s instinct to flood our retinas with overblown imagery would detract from the story. This is about Esme and Ariane. Try instead, producers, to match Elizabeth Foster’s craft: make your scenes fleeting and vivid, deft brushstrokes rather than visual battering rams.

Elizabeth Foster is planning a followup to Esme’s Wish. See news on her web den.

I will leave you now to the wind-played harps and song spells of Esperance in Aeolia.

Esme’s Wish is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where books are an adventure.

You are in the web den of Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things (between naps). and Writer-Bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In  from Publisherobscura.com .

‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!!
Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon.

 

 

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I am Mark, Guardian of Mawson Bear. Mawson sits on Bed-Top Hill. Between naps he ponders about Baffling Things. After deep ponders, most things remain for him as completly baffling as they were before. But they do seem friendlier, somehow. If you, too, are baffled by, well, Things, his little books of ponders could be just right for you.

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