Her Perilous Mansion


Publication Date: 28 Apr. 2020
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781760877361

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    In a strange mansion miles from anywhere, an orphan named Almanac and a twelfth daughter named Etta find themselves working -- and bickering -- side by side in the largely deserted rooms.

    But soon they realise that the house and its inhabitants are not quite what they seem, and there's more at stake than just their jobs.

    Can they solve the puzzle of Her Perilous Mansion before it's too late?

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 10 to 14 years
    Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 4.5/5
    Literary Rating: 4.5/5

    Review

    When Almanac is offered a job as apprentice to a second footman, he jumps at the chance to get away from the orphanage where he's lived all his life. But the manor house holds nothing but mystery and confusion. None of the other staff are anywhere to be found, and a note from the man who offered him the job instructs him to show the new chambermaid around the house -- even though he's only just arrived!

    Once Regret -- or "Etta' -- arrives, things become even stranger. The children are instructed to locate the library and the cellar and told that they will know what to do once they've found them. The cellar is full of rubbish, so they assume that Almanac has the task of cleaning it; the library is an uncategorised mess, so Etta assumes responsibility for cataloguing and organising it.

    As they work, the mystery deepens. They've heard the voices of their two friends Olive and Ugo, but have never seen them. It's not even clear what the house's name is!

    As Almanac and Etta slowly learn the ropes, they discover that the inhabitants of the manor are under a spell, which prevents them from leaving or explaining the strange happenings. Some clever decoding of materials in the library leads them to believe that the mess in the cellar may not just be random detritus. They also guess that the source of the spell is in the centre of the house but cannot get close enough to learn more.

    Etta escapes, and in the process the spell's secret is revealed: the residents are not just trapped in the manor, they are ghosts! They haven't seen Olive and Ugo because they don't have physical bodies. Unfortunately, she can't communicate this to Almanac due to the spell. Two more orphans -- Hackett and Elsie -- arrive, and Almanac is as determined as ever to solve the house's mystery.

    Through some clever sleuthing, Almanac realises that the house is luring orphans in to work there. He's not sure for what purpose, and in desperation the four orphans set fire to the house so that Almanac can finally reach the centre and learn its secrets.

    What they find is not what they expected: Sofia Phronesis, the most powerful sorceress in the world, accidentally created the spell as a child. Unhappy and lonely, she desperately wished that she would one day live there surrounded by happy, hardworking people -- which is why the house was luring workers in. Sofia manages to break the spell, and they come back to life. She leaves the grounds to them, and Almanac and Etta, suddenly rich, look forward to a life of adventure.

    A light-hearted, mysterious and fantastical adventure, with interesting world building, quirky characters, and a sweet ending. The story of Etta and Almanac's courage and intelligence and their daring escape is a fun and at times thrilling read.

    Themes

    family, home, magic, secrets, courage, mystery

    Content Notes

    1. A magic spell, which turns people into ghosts, is the main conflict of the novel. The victims of the spell are returned to life at the end of the novel. Other fantastical elements throughout.

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