The Tale of Atterberry

The Tale of Atterberry

The Tale of Atterberry is the debut novel of Leah Price and was first published in 2014. It is the first book of The Faire Pendant series, although at the time of writing no further instalments have been released. Although the novel is clearly aimed at middle grade readers, I think that it could still be readily enjoyed as a light read for young teens.

The story focuses on a young girl named Glenna who has lived her whole life on the renaissance faire circuit. Although she has few friends her own age she has grown up surrounded by all manner of fantastic performers, including an elderly magician called Roger who is like an uncle to her.

On her eleventh birthday, Glenna encounters a mysterious old lady who gives her a magical pendant. Glenna soon discovers that whenever she touches it, the world around her seems to change. The faire seems to come to life with people morphing into faeries and talking animals. Everyone that she knows at the faire seems to have a double in the Otherworld, only these avatars can do all of the magic that they only pretend to do in real life.

While Glenna explores this Otherworld under the guidance of Flutter, her guardian sprite, disaster strikes. Atterberry – skilled wizard and Roger’s double – has lost his cloak and without it he can’t use any magic. As Glenna returns to the real world she learns that the same is true there, only Roger’s inability to perform at the renaissance faire is likely to cost him his job.

As she investigates further, Glenna discovers that the cloak has actually been stolen and sets out to uncover the culprit. Using her ability to travel between worlds, she hunts for evidence and soon finds herself hot on the thief’s tail. She knows that she has little time left. Roger’s final performance looms closer and, if he can’t perform, it could also spell the end for Atterberry…

The Tale of Atterberry is a thoroughly charming novel. Although incredibly short (the kindle edition is only a little over a hundred pages long), the story is very smoothly written and paced in such a way that it never lost my interest. It also carries a nice moral regarding the importance in having confidence in your own abilities, which is a great message to send to a pre-teen audience. My only real disappointment with the structure was how ultimately easy it was for Glenna to solve the mystery. In the end, it is not even really Glenna that manages to find the cloak. Although she does figure out who it was that stole the object, it is actually a very minor character that comes in at the last moment to save the day.

However, the novel more than makes up for this small disappointment with its rich setting. In England, renaissance faires don’t really exist and so they’re not really something that I know a lot about. Because of this, I found the descriptions of the different acts really interesting. Price’s vivid writing style helped me to vividly imagine the different performers and stalls. As the faire was already so enchanting, the transitions into the Otherworld always seemed very smooth and fitting. At first, Glenna did not even realise that anything had really changed because she was so used to seeing such fantastical costumes.

Price’s world building completely blew me away. Middle grade writers can sometimes be a little lazy, falsely believing that children will not notice inconsistencies, but in The Tale of Atterberry everything makes perfect sense. The Otherworld is a place of imagination. Although most people cannot travel there, they still exist within it in the form that they imagine themselves being. For the people in the faire, this means that they usually appear in the form of their costumes. Roger is a wizard, Sibelle is a real fortune teller and Duncan is an anthropomorphic fox. Although the Otherworld seems perfect, it is still not without danger. If a person in the real world starts to lose their self-confidence, their Otherworld self gradually cease to exist. I found this to be a really imaginative idea and it did help to maintain tension throughout the second half of the novel. If the cloak was not found, Roger would lose his job but Atterberry would die.

The characters in the novel were a little less memorable. While I do appreciate that Price had a very small space in which to develop them, I still would have liked to have seen the cast become a little more rounded. Glenna just felt a little too nice for an eleven year old girl. She always behaved impeccably, went out of her way to help others and often seemed to apologise for no apparent reason. While her saintly nature makes her a good role model for a pre-teen reader, it did not really allow me to warm to her. While I don’t believe that all female characters need to be sharp talking and full of attitude, Glenna just failed to have anything about her that made her seem unique and memorable.

The secondary cast in the novel also had very little about them. Roger was lovable but there was not enough made about his discovery that his act did not need to be dependent on props (this realisation comes to him off page). Similarly, the story’s villain seemed to escape entirely without comeuppance. In fact, he almost seems to be rewarded for his actions as the thing that he most wants is just handed to him when he’s found out. Although I expect that he will continue to be the antagonist going forward, I still felt that this was a little weak. We don’t even really find out anything about why he’s such a bad seed beyond the fact that he’s just always been that way.

Well, this review seems a little shorter than my last few but due to the novel’s length I don’t really have much more to say. The Tale of Atterberry has a wonderful setting and therefore could be readily enjoyed by either middle grade readers or young teens who are looking for a quick and easy read. My only real disappointment was with regards to the characterisation, as I felt that a little more could have been done in order to make them feel like real people. I’m really looking forward to the next instalment and hope that it manages to iron out these niggling annoyances.

The Tale of Atterberry can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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