Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Circle of Power. You can read my review of this novel [here].
The Sprite Sisters series is written by Sheridan Winn and focuses on the adventures of four magical girls as they protect their home from an evil witch. The series is aimed at middle grade readers and currently contains eight novels – The Circle of Power (2008), The Magic Unfolds (2008), The Secret of the Towers (2009), The Ghost in the Tower (2009), New Magic (2010), The Boy with the Hawk-like Eyes (2012), Magic at Drysdale’s School (2013) and The Mystery of the Locked Room (2014). For the purpose of this review I’ll be looking at the second and third books only.
Flame, Marina, Ash and Ariel are four sisters who share a secret – they are each able to use a different kind of elemental magic. Such powers have always run in the Sprite family, although not every member can use them. The only person who knows about the power that the girls possess is their Grandmother. To reveal magic to someone who can’t use it themselves is to risk losing it forever.
In The Magic Unfolds, the four sisters are forced to confront the evil Glenda Glass once again as she tries to use her magic to damage the roof of Sprite Towers. If she succeeds, the Sprite’s Dad could never afford the repairs and would have no choice but to sell the house. The Sprites know that only their combined magic can protect the Towers but they find themselves out of balance. Marina has befriended Glenda’s granddaughter, Verena, and in doing so has driven a wedge between herself and her sisters.
In The Secret of the Towers, the Sprite Sisters learn that a box containing a magical secret is hidden somewhere in their home and start to search for it. However, they are not alone. A distant relative called Charles Smythson has come to Sprite Towers under the pretence of cataloguing the paintings but he is actually a spy for Glenda Glass. The sisters know that they must find the object before he can deliver it into Glenda’s hands but that won’t be a simple task. Charles possesses dark magic of his own…
If you read my earlier review of The Circle of Power, you might remember that I’m rather fond of the series. The books are very light and easy to read, promoting wholesome values for pre-teen readers. The setting of the books brings to mind classic British literature such as the work of Enid Blyton, as the Sprites camp out in the grounds of their large family home, play cricket and attend a village fête.
While the books are filled with nostalgia for an English reader, I should probably note that some of these ideas may be a bit alien for others. The Sprite Sisters books are very much written with an English audience in mind and so are filled with concepts that don’t really exist outside of the British Isles. An example of this is the sisters’ fondness for “eggy bread”. If you’re not English, this probably means very little to you (note: it’s probably also not what you’d think) so bear in mind that you might have to Google a few terms.
The Magic Unfolds carries on directly from where the The Circle of Power left off, with the sisters having just thwarted Glenda’s attempts to harm them during their recital. While the story is slow to start, it does take a little time to remind readers of the previous events and explain the limitation of the Sprite’s abilities. The way that magic is handled in this series is still one of my favourite things about it. The fact that it is affected by the Sprite’s behaviour (and the restriction that if they reveal it to others they could lose it forever) is rather unique and provides both solid restrictions and a moral grounding for the series.
Themes of family and unity are particularly significant in The Magic Unfolds as the plot hinges on the importance of sticking together. As the Sprite’s elemental powers are all based around balance, tension builds as the conflict between Flame and Marina escalates. While it’s clear to the reader that Verena is unknowingly driving a wedge between the sisters, the full effects of this don’t become clear until quite late in the story. While The Circle of Power largely focused on Ariel discovering her powers, The Magic Unfolds is more a journey for Marina as she learns that sometimes she needs to make difficult choices for the sake of her family.
The Secret of the Towers is a lot faster moving, making it my favourite novel of the series to date. The story quickly builds a sense of urgency as this time the Sprites only have a few days to discover their home’s latest secret. Things are made more difficult by the introduction of Charles – a pawn of Glenda’s. Charles is a villain of a different kind. While Glenda is overtly evil, Charles is far more amiable and so easily manages to find a way to infiltrate Sprite Towers. Because their parents are oblivious to Charles’s true nature, the sisters are forced to work harder than ever to keep their powers a secret while at the same time thwarting his plans.
While the previous two books of the series spent a lot of time showing how the Sprite Sisters could use their powers individually, The Secret of the Towers instead puts more focus on how they can combine their powers to protect their home. After the drama of The Magic Unfolds, it was nice to see the sisters working together again and some of their creative ways of outsmarting Charles were really rather fun. The novel also ended on a curious note, with the sisters discovering something rather surprising in the attic of their home. I am very interested to see where this leads in the fourth book.
In terms of characterisation, the series is rather charming and offers a wide variety of colourful characters. Each of the sisters has a noticeably different personality (which compliments their respective element) and this really shows through in the way they speak and interact with each other. Verena also continues to develop over the course of The Magic Unfolds (although both she and Glenda are absent in The Secret of the Towers). I’m curious to see what becomes of Verena over the rest of the series because, despite her flaws, it’s really hard not to feel sorry for her.
The only thing that I felt was missing from these two books were the Sprite’s school friends. As both of the stories were largely set in the school holidays, we only briefly see the characters who are not part of the Sprite family. In particular, I hope that the next book features more scenes between Flame and Quinn. Although Flame regularly mentions that she has a crush on him, we don’t really see much of it developing in these two stories due to his absence from proceedings.
Anyhow, I guess that’s a good point to wrap up this review. The Sprite Sisters continues to be a really fun and light-hearted series for middle grade readers. It’s got a great magic system, vibrant characters and really wholesome family atmosphere. It’s definitely a series that I’d recommend and I look forward to revisiting Sprite Towers in a future review.
The Magic Unfolds can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk
The Secret of the Towers can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk