That Acari Girl by F Jay Vai

Good characters, humour and a gripping plot make this dark young adult fantasy a real page turner, despite mediocre writing.

The story begins with Sophia and her little brother Max on the train, travelling to stay with their uncle, who is employed by the wealthy Le Fay family. The Le Fay mansion is surrounded by a spooky forest, believed to be haunted by a child-stealing witch. And as you might guess from the name, some of the Le Fays are also witches (and warlocks). Max begins to behave strangely and Sophia doesn’t know who to trust…

The setting is a Nordic fantasy land where steam trains co-exist with mobile phones and though magic is fading from the world, it seems to be an accepted part of reality.

The only thing letting this book down is the writing. It’s very readable but basic. The first chapter would have benefited from more dialogue (which is well written elsewhere). There are a lot of minor editing errors which don’t detract much, but are annoying.

I would say this book is suitable for the younger end of young adult (and older). There are scary bits and some light romance, but nothing too squicky.

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