Hi friends! I’m excited to be back to review a middle-grade (it’s been too long) that really surprised me with how much I ended up enjoying it! Also the cover is really gorgeous, like wow my eyes are in love.
A huge thank you to Penguin for gifting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It’s Christmas break and Tess and Max are in London, staying at the posh Sanborn House with their Aunt Evie. As they wait for their parents to arrive, there is an unusual snowstorm that makes the city seem as if it’s caught in a snow globe. Perfect weather for an adventure in Hyde Park. But when Max, Tess, and Aunt Evie leave to search for a cab, they find a horse and carriage and driver curiously waiting for them at the curb. And that’s just the beginning…
Soon Tess is charmed by a mysterious boy named Colin who lives at the hotel all year round–on the 8th floor. But Max is sure the elevator only had 7 floors the day before. And how come everyone at the hotel seems to ignore Colin? Things seem to get stranger and stranger. There’s a 1920s costume party in Colin’s parents’ apartment. A marble that seems to be more than it appears. And a shadow that passes mysteriously by Tess and Max’s hotel window. Tess wants to figure out what’s going on, but finds only more questions: Is it just a coincidence that Colin’s last name is Sanborn, the same as the hotel? Why does the cat’s-eye marble look eerily similar to the crystal at the top of their hotel room key? And, most importantly, what happened in that hotel one Christmas long, long ago?
I totally didn’t realize that this was the third book in the series*, so when I started I was a little bit confused. But it quickly became clear that while it would help to understand references, you didn’t have to read previous installments to read this one. Which was great for me!
*this actually happens quite a lot with me, you’d think i’d have learned by now. once i started with the TWELFTH book in a series. just imagine.
The atmosphere was amazing! For a middle-grade, I was surprised to find that at times it had a bit of a creepier vibe. At other times, it felt very festive since it’s set near Christmas! Even weirder this combination actually worked. It made for a very satisfying encapsulation of emotions.
Tess and Max are excellent leading characters. They act their age, are enamored by both the complex and the simple, and make decisions that, while the reader might not always agree with it, stays true the personalities that the author has set forth.
also! can we talk about the fantastical elements for a hot second???
This had so many elements that I was not expecting in the slightest. Like um, yes, hello, give me a seer that shapeshifts into a cat! A dash of portal fantasy! And some good old-fashioned British food*.
*that happens to not be magical at all but hey, what kind of review would this be if i didn’t mention the food? not a good one, that’s for sure.
I have a few minor quibbles, mainly that because this book is so short, it feels like the plot is too rushed or a little underdeveloped at times. But! If a younger reader were reading this, I think that it would be the perfect pace and the amount of information well-balanced. It really does depend on who you are, and what your standards are.
On occasion, I felt that the word repetition was a little too blatant for my tastes. Again, this could simply be a problem of my own, one that the intended audience wouldn’t have an issue with.
I’d Recommend This For Fans of:
Narnia for sure! The entire book had this feeling of nostalgia. I don’t know if it was the Christmas setting, or the characters themselves but I think that fans of Narnia will be able to appreciate this story quite well!
That’s it! I don’t read as much middle-grade as I would like to, so I’m a lil rusty on reviewing it but I’m hoping to fix that in the new year. Have you heard of this? You can add this book on Goodreads or order it on Amazon if you’d like!