Vande Velde's (The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, reviewed above) fairy tale-like novel set once upon a time features two witches, 17-year-old Nola and her mother. The pair works for hire at odd jobs, and Nola hides her magic, knowing they could be killed if suspected of witchcraft. Occasionally Nola tosses a hair in a bucket of water to read "shadowforms"--images of what the hair's owner is doing at that moment. Such a spell is in progress when a silversmith fires her and her mother. In her rushed departure, Nola neglects to break the spell; so she bespells another bucket to see if the first one has been discovered. Thus she witnesses the silversmith's murder. Afraid that she may be implicated in the murder, Nola returns to the silversmith's house. She continues to cast spells to protect her ruse, each time creating more trouble for herself--but more fun and suspense for readers. Although they may be overwhelmed by the detailed plot points, readers will be rewarded with a solid mystery and a handful of memorable characters, especially Nola's mother, an eccentric woman possessed by spirits, who makes funny asides (e.g., "Never underestimate someone who's willing to hold your head while you're being sick"). The investigator's acceptance of Nola's witchcraft, however, feels too sudden, and their romance unnecessary. The impractical conclusion is a letdown from an otherwise entertaining read. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nola and her mother have always been able to change their appearance magically or see distant events in a pail of water. To Nola, it is natural, but to their medieval society it means death. Keeping their witchcraft a secret means moving from village to village, never feeling truly safe or at home. And now Nola's aging mother is beginning to mumble thoughts that might give them away. When Nola witnesses a murder through the use of enchanted water, she becomes entangled in the investigation led by the kind and handsome Galvin. Should she trust him and tell the truth about the murder and herself? Or is it more important to protect her mother and their dangerous secret? And is it possible that he returns her feelings? Once again, Vande Velde entertains with sympathetic characters in a mildly occult setting. 2000, Harcourt, $17.00. Ages 11 to 13. Reviewer: Jendy Murphy
Nola and her mother are witches, good witches, but nonetheless they must cover that fact and expect to frequently move on when others become suspicious. They live in a world that consists of mostly rural villages in another time and place. Nola's mother is getting stranger all the time, not careful to hide the fact that she hears voicesin our time we might suspect that she is schizophrenic. The story moves from a witch's tale of many spells, to a murder mystery, and finally, a love story. (All connected, of course.) Nola is a brave, curious teenager trying to keep her mother and herself from harm, making mistakes by acting rashly, not sure whom to trust. She is hungry for friendship and security, but she can't do anything to change the fact that she is a witch. She uses her abilities as a witch to keep an eye on people she is afraid might harm them, and one such spell enables her to see a murder taking place in the household they have recently left. She hurries back because of a mistake she is afraid might be discovered and becomes a part of the investigation. The young man leading this investigation is very attractive. This is amusing, light reading for undemanding YAs. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2000, Harcourt, 197p, 00-8595, $17.00. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Gr 6-8-Vande Velde's offering throws murder, witchcraft, and romance into the brew. Nola and her mother, both witches, exist in a kind of Middle Ages netherworld where they travel from town to town looking for odd jobs. Inevitably, Nola's childlike, blabbermouth mother exposes their witchy ways and the pair must move on. Wise Nola uses her powers to their advantage; with just a human hair, she is able to "see" figures and scenes in a bucket of water. In this way, she is able to check on suspicious people and keep abreast of their activities. It's a good plan, unless you leave the water in mid-spell for the villains to find. Through her magic and ingenuity, Nola manages to reveal a murderer, save her mother and herself, and find true love. The well-developed characters provide entertaining reading, but Nola's constant internal monologues and insecure second-guessing sometimes slow the pace. The conclusion wraps up nicely and neatly-perhaps a little too much so. Most likely to cast a spell on Vande Velde's fans.-Laura Glaser, Euless Junior High School, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Nola and her mother are witches, which makes life difficult for them in the vaguely medieval times in which this story is set. Ever since she was little and realized that not every child could cast spells as she could, Nola and her mother have had to move often to avoid suspicion. Nola most often uses a water spell; by throwing a hair into a container of water, Nola can watch what its owner is doing. One day Nola and her mother find work in the house of a silversmith in the village of Haymarket. Before too long, though, Nola's careless use of witchcraft, specifically the water spell, gets them both in trouble and both, ultimately, implicated in a murder mystery involving the death of the silversmith. It becomes Nola's job to unravel the mystery and find the true culprit, thus absolving her mother and herself of the blame. Unfortunately, the story is not as exciting as it needs to be, has a plot and exposition that is convoluted and belabored, and an ending that is contrived and unsatisfying. For a more successful melding of the medieval, of murder, and of magic, try Midnight Magic by Avi, and for a much better offering by Vande Velde, stick with last year's There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around, a much more successful and enjoyable book. (Fiction. 10-14)