The third instalment of this steampunk fantasy series by Vashti Hardy for Barrington Stoke is another large scale adventure told in just over one hundred pages. As we return to Moreland our heroes attempt to solve a new mystery and have to face their greatest challenge yet, one that will be a test of courage and teamwork as they try to overcome prejudice and fear within a community.
Grace is now a fully fledged warden of the Griffin map, alongside her mother and brother, using its teleport technology to fight crime across Moreland. She has been joined by her new friend Tom Eely who has been training hard to become a warden and join the team. Despite their enthusiasm Grace’s mum thinks that the pair are not ready for a dangerous mission just yet and sends them instead to a quiet mountain village where a flock of ravens have been pestering the locals. Shortly after Grace and Tom arrive the situation becomes more involved than they had expected and with tales of a mountain witch and a spooky house in the woods they realise that this may not be the low key expedition they anticipated.
Vashti Hardy builds on the world she created in The Griffin Gate and the new character introduced in The Puffin Portal is developed further in this action packed sequel. The adventure encourages children to try to solve the mystery alongside the characters and as the tension mounts young readers will explore themes of friendship and the importance of teamwork. Key to the plot is the villagers’ suspicion of anyone a little different from themselves and the prejudice shown to outsiders. The author deals with this sensitively and the resolution is thoughtful and kindly in tone.
Helping Grace and Tom in their exploits is Watson the Robot Raven and this little trio make a good team. Grace is a wonderful female lead character and role model being both brave and thoughtful and Tom develops as a character in ways that will encourage children. The appealing cover and the black and white illustrations throughout are by Natalie Smillie and bring the imaginary world of Moreland to life adding to the enjoyment.
It is great to see Barrington Stoke pursuing this as a series. As a publisher they have done a great deal to widen access to quality fiction and I know from experience how important it can be for readers to develop a love of series fiction. That sense of familiarity and reconnecting to old friends as they follow characters through their adventures adds to the enjoyment of reading for many so I am delighted to see that there is another adventure, The Weather Well to look forward to.
I should like to thank the publishers Barrington Stoke for my review copy. The Raven Riddle is published on 3rd March and is available to purchase online at Bookshop.org.
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