Esme’s Gift (Book 2), Elizabeth Foster, Odyssey Books, November 2019
Terror was within. Terror was without. Like her mother, she was at the water’s mercy.
In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver faces her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift – the power to observe the past – and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.
In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends – old and new – travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.
Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must face their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places.
Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is a gripping fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.
I couldn’t wait to dive right back into Esperance – literally – since the last visit in Esme’s Wish (review). And this second fantasy adventure that takes place in the enchanting canal city surrounded by shimmering waters and ensconced with mythical creatures didn’t disappoint.
On a mission, fifteen-year-old Esme, her friends Lillian and Daniel, and a cast of new characters search out illegal and special elements as the key to Esme’s mother, Ariane’s survival. Meanwhile, Esme struggles through the guilt and resentment towards her forlorn father, left behind, as well as the pressures of bigoted teachers and students at her new Esperance school. But most importantly, Esme needs to master her control over her newly acquired Gift of being able to retrace history through a water source – in essence, to fill in the cracks of the elixir’s recipe ingredients and to understand plots secreted by villains of the past (and present).
The world of Aeolia has been built with extraordinary imagination and depiction through Foster’s lavish turn of phrase, casting her readers deep into the scenes of spectacular visions, fantastical portals and dangerous suspense. There is enough treachery to hook older readers, whilst at the same time aptly in spirit for younger teens as to not overwhelm with a certain level of violence and terror.
Foster obviously considered the development of her characters, as for Esme, the girl hero who holds strong despite ominous challenges, is also cursed with doubt and uncertainty when reliability and trust are questioned. But compassion, keeping focus on the end goal, and the strength in her friendships are what drive Esme to have faith and complete her quest.
Whilst we have embarked together on hair-raising escapes that ultimately unveiled a plethora of dark secrets, we are still left with plot holes to fill in with the finale to the trilogy. And Foster cleverly keeps us hanging. Readers of Esme’s Gift will easily slip into this immersive world of enchantment and never want to surface, forever encapsulated with memories and sensations of this alternate reality. Highly recommended.
‘Elizabeth Foster serenades us with the smoothest and silkiest of poetic language that casts you back to the classic writers of old…’
Review by Romi Sharp.