FICTION

The Wolf of Cape Fen

Sourcebooks. Apr. 2020. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781728209616.
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Gr 4-8–Amid the storms of a cursed island near the turn of the 19th century, 12-year-old Eliza attempts to protect her younger sister Winnie. Now that winter has arrived, the magical Wolf and its master, Baron Dire, have followed. Many of the townsfolk have made bargains with him for the magic he offers. These bargains seem to turn against the people making them, with horrific results and sometimes even death. Eliza’s own mother made a bargain to leave them four years ago, and now the Wolf is intent upon attacking her sister. Did someone bargain away Winnie’s life? Eliza must work through silence and secrets to find the key to saving her sister. Brandt’s debut novel is both chilling and thrilling—the wintry world hides horror in the dark corners with physical and emotional threats. The plot moves quickly, focusing on only one week, but balances action with the angst of emotion; even side characters seem to have deep backstory with their secret bargains and obscured motivations. Each chapter is prefaced with a different character dreaming, which enhances the ethereal tone. With themes of friendship, love, dreams, and sacrifice, this title will find a good home in any classroom or book group. There are some minor rough spots, such as the claim that Eliza’s Pa hadn’t said her mother’s name in four years when he had just used it 10 pages earlier, and an ending that wraps things up slightly too speedily. However, they don’t detract much from the tale’s magical momentum and lasting sense of luminescence.
VERDICT A mesmerizing piece of magical realism packed with mystery, suspense, and, most important, love.

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