A welcome return to the imagination of Jackie Burke (author of The Secrets of Grindlewood series) takes us into a world of adventure, danger and music.
It’s 1899 and a new century is looming near. Fourteen-year-old Evelyn Wells, by some strange twist of fate, has just won a prestigious opportunity to take up a scholarship studying music with renowned maestro, Lionel Thorn. She is whisked away to a mysterious, isolated manor, leaving behind her family. She presumed there would be other students, but finds herself alone. Evie is kept within the confines of the Hall, forbidden to stray from its’ most immediate surrounds. Even her letters home are being doctored and she has no confidence that anyone in the outside world can find her. When her other studies, including her flute take a back seat to mastering a peculiar little harp, Evie begins to realise that Dower Hall is not at all what it seems to be. Within its’ walls, many dark secrets and threatening characters are lurking. Evie must why the maestro is so obsessed with the strange harp and why she is the only one who can make it sing. If Evie is the new Harp Maiden, the fate that will befall her is a far cry from her dreams of a musical future.
Harps have long been associated with legend and magic, creating a feel of having entered a space just beyond our reach. This story uses that to great effect, carefully building a Gothic mystery/horror that is incredible (and perfectly suitable for readers 9-12.) From the outset, the reader will sense there is something amiss in the great opportunity Evie has been given. It seems to good to be true; and it came from nowhere. The adults in her life have no reservations whatsoever. The burgeoning moment of the new century stretches the tension in the story; the newness of it all. But, what will this pivotal moment in time really mean for Evie…a beginning or an end? While painting a vivid picture of the historical past, it is when she arrives at Dower Hall that the expert and creative world-building and story-telling really kick everything into place. With well-developed characters, isolated in an eerie location that cannot be found, rescue made impossible and an ever-building sense of danger, a spell is woven that leaves us standing on uneven ground. It is only through her own cleverness, a surprising amount of cunning and unique talent for music that Evie can create an escape route for herself and her kidnapped friends, and prevent a true evil from entering the world. All through the voice of a magical harp. And Evie is only just beginning to understand what it means to be the Harp Maiden. Want a story that sends shivers down your spine and makes you cheer out loud for the hero? This is it. Harp Maiden is simply marvelous.