Jinxed!: The Curious Curse of Cora Bell (Rebecca McRitchie, illus by Sharon O’Connor, HarperCollins)
Rebecca McRitchie follows the success of her ‘Whimsy and Woe’ duology with a new middle-grade fantasy series, of which Jinxed! is the first instalment. Cora lives in the tumbledown city of Urt with her guardian, Dot, and her beloved cat, Scratch, but her true origins are a mystery; the only clue is a silver bracelet. While scavenging for some precious Toe Tippins’ Shoe Polish, Cora accidentally unleashes a giant, malevolent Jinx, which unfortunately wants to eat her and crush anything in its path. Her unlikely saviours appear in the form of two hairy, fat fairies (imagine the Hairy Bikers with wings) that whisk Cora across magic landscapes to escape the Jinx. But as she comes to terms with her pursuer, Cora discovers new strengths within herself. While there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments (mainly involving the bumbling fairies, Tick and Tock), the plot sags a little in the middle as Cora lurches from one setting to another, without enough groundwork being laid in each place. Too many balls are thrown in the air for the reader to properly care about the mounting stakes, and the ending leaves a little to be desired emotionally. Although the language is simple enough for a confident seven-year-old, the length may be off-putting to some younger readers. This is a sweet, funny and magical adventure for fans of The Train to Impossible Places.
Annie Waters sells books, writes about books and podcasts about books