Elle McNicoll, Like a charm, Knights of, January 2024, 313 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781913311278
When Ramya was introduced as a neurodivergent character, I gave a little internal groan because those who don’t fit the ‘normal’ seem to be sometimes more prevalent in literature than I’m comfortable with. But McNicoll showed her skills in presenting Ramya as a feisty, lovable, independent thinking person who expected the world to accept her differences. Her dyspraxia is an added challenge for her at school. But she has more powers and skills than most, although it takes her a long time to discover them and sets about discovering the magic suggested within the book bequeathed to her by her grandfather. It’s not so much that Ramya discovers from the book, as the book gives her the impetus to discover her own skills.
This middle grade fantasy is set in Edinburgh. It’s a city with much folklore around it and McNicoll has tapped into this tradition. Australian readers won’t be at all disadvantaged by knowing nothing or little about this wonderful place. But the fantasy creatures — faes, trolls, vampires, witches, kelpies and the feared sirens – who appear are not the ones readers usually visualise. This ensures that each reader approaches the story with an individual approach.
Ramya’s relationships with her cousin Marley – an essential support to her adventures – and with her aunts Leanna and Opal, as well as her sometimes fiery mother, Cass, expose some of the family secrets, and lead her to trust her own instincts and explore the co-existent world around her.
Highly recommended – and I look forward to reading more about Ramya’s adventures in Like a curse.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann