Mrs. Cavendish is one creepy lady and Victoria, our heroine protagonist has her hands full when kids begin disappearing, towns folks stop being very human and her own parents succumb to the spell. Ms. Legrands writing craft is a delight to read and she keeps it creepified on every page. I particularly enjoyed Victorias voice and her over-the-top arrogance. Who else would have a melt down faced with her lowest grade ever, a B. The second place winner on my enjoyment scale was music dispelling evil. Music is incredibly powerful for healing and Victoria learns to use it to defend herself against devilish threats. Music has always thrilled me and it was ultimately satisfying to see it used against the forces of evil. It was no surprise then to discover the author used to be a musician.
I read the Cavendish book with a sense of relief, since I had been worried about my own work being too edgy for the pre-teen middle grade marketplace. Mrs. Cavendishs dark side is a bit more gothic than my evil characters and depicted in a very scary way. I give this author credit for high marks on the spooky index. I particularly liked the bugs that seemed to be everywhere including printed on the pages. I was a little surprised they did not gross out Victoria, but after all, she’s our hero.
This is the second pre-teen book that Ive seen with illustrations. The first was the Blogtastic novel series by Rose Cooper. In both cases, the illustrations add to the impact of the books; comedy for Cooper and spookiness for Legrand.
I found only one serious flaw in the storyline. Pressed on all sides by evil pressures, Victoria finally buckles. Yet after sinking to the depths of despair, she mysteriously recovers. I expected, but didnt find the dramatic motivation for this emotional switch. What triggered the change? Also, the ending scenes closed a bit fast for me and I lost the ability to visualization the characters who had been absorbed into the garden.
Overall, this was an exciting and enjoyable read and I would recommend it for eleven and twelve year old pre-teens and more mature younger readers.