Unfortunately, Marplot’s fairy world’s simplistic good-and-evil turf war ultimately turns the story’s protagonists into pawns. Arty and Emma feel a bit sidelined in their own adventure; Emma loses her will under the mind magic of the evil Gwyllion, and all the characters follow the clues and puzzles created by the ancestors of a deus-ex-machina mentor who appears near the end of the book. Emma and Arty never quite get a chance to own their victory. As the magic fades away from the story, so too does its sense of wonder.
The magical creatures have an unearthly but relatable appeal, and their method of communicating with the kids by sharing images seen through their eyes offers a creative glimpse into fairyland. The alternating perspectives between Arty and Emma are well-balanced and give a wider view of the action, but short chapters narrated by minor characters, many of whom quibble about their representation, diffuse the immersive sense of adventure and pad out a book that already stretches out a little too long. Marplot plays well to young readers whose sense of adventure is balanced by their desire to learn, grounding his playfulness and whimsy with an excellent knowledge of folklore.
Takeaway: Middle grade readers looking for a fantasy grounded in Irish folklore will enjoy the detailed puzzles and, dynamic friendships in Marplot’s debut.
Great for fans of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Jeremiah Curtin’s Irish Tales of the Fairies and the Ghost World.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-