Thursday 7 March 2024

The Grimmelings

The Grimmelings by Rachael King. 2024 Allen & Unwin. Middle-Grade paperback RRP $19.99. ISBN 97811991006646

Reviewed by Debra Williams 

Grimmelings: the first and last glimmers of light in the day. So begins the introduction in chapter one of this Middle-Grade fantasy fiction novel. A boy disappears: at the same time an enormous black stallion appears and another boy, (Gus) mysteriously appears, after 12-year-old Ella pronounces a curse and utters a wish to make a friend on the same day. The locals brand Ella and her family as witches and give them a wide berth.

Ella and Fiona’s grandma, Griselda (Grizzly, as she is affectionately called), is of Scottish background. In her younger days she fled some kind of tragedy (to which she doesn’t refer), and emigrated to New Zealand, where she met her husband-to-be. In later years, both her husband, and the husband of her daughter Morag, mysteriously disappeared in the local lake.

According to Grizzly, there are dangerous creatures that live in the lake. Ella discovers that it is more than just legend, and with her horse Magpie she is embroiled in a perilous life-and-death struggle with the creature known as a Kelpie. What she doesn’t know is that Kelpies can take both human and animal form, and this one has appeared out of nowhere. Ella is alarmed when several sheep are found beheaded, and magpies are murdered mysteriously.

The stuff of Scottish folklore is that the Kelpie appears as a huge horse, which charms people, especially children, to sit on its back. They are unable to escape, and the Kelpie then drowns them in the lake. Ella grows up believing it is just an old tale, but the stakes become highly personal when her little sister Fiona disappears as well.

It is Fiona who understands the truth from Grizzly: that the black stallion which appears at various times, is not actually a horse. There is a terrifying twist towards the end of the story, and Ella becomes enmeshed in trying to save Fiona, her mother, and many others.

With overtones of The Pied Piper of Hamlin, combined with the stuff of Scottish legend, The Grimmelings is a heart-stopping and enthralling fantasy adventure. It comes with a warning -- be careful what you wish for. This is Rachael King’s second book for children: the first, Red Rocks, won the Esther Glen Medal in 2013 and is in development for television. 

Suitable for upper-middle grade 10+ years. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.