If you could get rid of your pesky brother - would you?
Athene Enright is a prim and preposterously obnoxious twelve-year-old girl who simply cannot stand her younger brother, Zach. Like all six-year-old boys, Zach has an awful tendency to be annoying – especially to older sisters – but then, Athene hated Zach before he could even talk or babble. If Zach likes something, Athene doesn’t; if Zach wants to do something, Athene wouldn’t be seen dead doing it; if Zach gets upset, Athene will cruelly smirk quietly to herself. In short, Athene is an extremely horrible sister.
With the summer holidays coming up, the Enright family have to decide where to go on holiday. Athene makes sure that all Zach’s suggestions go down in smoke, whilst vying for her own idea of a summer spent on a rural farm. The farm turns out to be more wondrous than anyone could have possibly imagined – as amongst the fields and woods nearby live the incredible, odd-looking, “Gloam”. When Zach stumbles across Athene on one of her night time expeditions with the Gloam, he immediately makes friends; but Athene is cross and jealous, so when her chance comes to get rid of him, she takes it.
Surpassing the introduction of a sub-species of human being (the Gloam) and the enticing world of magic and talking animals, is the story of a flawed character and how it is reformed. Spellbound is an exploration of sibling rivalry and how jealousy can become something dangerous and damaging if not dealt with. It also deals with a surprising array of morality issues such as: the fact that there is light and dark in everyone; that good friends forgive and help one another; that our prejudices are often based on false beliefs and the importance of never giving up hope.
Dale’s work is reminiscent of Blyton in its depth of morality and the clear, pointed statements made about how one should behave. Spellbound draws on the modern preoccupation with all things magical, but the story would have been equally poignant without. Perhaps a little slow to begin with and deliberately overly harsh on Athene’s character; Spellbound is nonetheless enjoyable and entertaining.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012