This second book in the Maggie Blue trilogy soars with imagination, transporting the reader as seamlessly as the title character between two contrasting worlds . Anna Goodall’s construction of the story is masterful, encouraging the reader to read between the lines and try to piece together the puzzle of Maggie’s purpose and fate. It is labelled as a middle grade book but I would suggest that it is likely to be most enjoyed by children towards the end of Year 6, during the summer between primary and secondary school and during Key Stage 3, when they are of similar age to the child protagonists.
The story begins with Maggie and her school friends languidly passing the summer holidays in the woods or in Aunt Esme’s garden, enduring a stifling heatwave. Despite the intense heat and light, both Maggie and her friend Ida intermittently feel their blood chill when they experience flashbacks to the time spent in the Dark World. Maggie seems blissfully unaware that her every move is being watched by warrior shifters, people from the Dark World who can take on the shape of birds…but what is their intent? And can Maggie’s heightened senses really be unaware that she is needed for a further purpose in a fantasy land that she would rather not revisit?
In the real world, she now feels less of an outsider, having friends to hang out with. However, she is still insecure about her odd family circumstances; living with eccentric Aunt Esme while her mum Cynthia, is incarcerated in a mental hospital and her dad is overseas with his new young girlfriend. Regular tween discussions about holiday plans cause her discomfort and distress because she is not in a position to enjoy overseas vacations. These everyday events become immaterial when a pure white crow arrives in West Minchen, followed soon after by Cynthia who despite being in a distressed state wants to tell Maggie about her background. Without wishing to give away any plot spoilers I will simply say that Maggie is reluctantly hurtled back into the Dark World and the reader is immersed into a land of ruthless ambition, ongoing war, witches and the chillingly ferocious Terrible Ones. The seven ruling families have built a citadel in the Magic Mountains:
a bizarre glittering structure. It shone like madness in the clear lightp26
and somehow Maggie’s fate is dependent on restoring the balance between their urge to destroy and the Great O’s mission to preserve the natural world.
This is an immersive, exciting novel with moments of violent peril balanced with some wryly humorous passages, usually featuring Hoagy the one-eyed cat! With underlying themes of mental health issues and the exploitation of the natural world it is a sophisticated tale which will leave readers desperate to find out whether Maggie will have the ability to reconcile her two worlds in the final instalment. Before I finish this review, I must encourage you to take a close look at the stunning cover art by Sandra Dieckmann which so beautifully depicts the protagonists with whom you will glide through this story.
I am very grateful to Guppy Books and to Liz Scott for sending me a copy of Maggie Blue and the White Crow in advance of publication on 2nd March 2023.