Long-time readers of this blog might remember my review for Esme’s Wish, a wonderfully charming book about a young girl who finds herself in a new world, and discovers her mother spent much of her own time there before her disappearance.
The adventure continues in Esme’s Gift. Here, we originally see Esme returning home, joyfully anticipating being reunited with her father, only to discover he is an absolute mess, struggling to cope with her missing status. But even when she returns, it isn’t the reunion she hoped for. Her father doesn’t believe her, so Esme returns to the wonderful world and her friends.
This book sees Emse exploring more of the magical world, gaining understanding over her gift, and even attending school alongside Daniel and Lillian.
The school set up will be familiar to those who have read any other magic schooling books, though with another differences to still make it feel fresh. And the school feels more like Xavier’s School from X-Men than Hogwarts, with kids displaying a variety of different powers and trying to learn to control them. There’s the stuck-up girl who verges on bullying, a mysterious boy who Esme doesn’t quite trust, and various other characters who prove to be allies to the main trio.
And as for the trio itself, it’s refreshing, as it was in the first installment, to see a trio made up of two girls and a boy, rather than two boys and a girl. And there’s no love triangle here, no forced romance. There’s hints of it, but nothing tips over and it’s actually kind of refreshing. Instead, the focus is on growing friendship, their adventures, and how they’re navigating being teenagers with extraordinary powers. Abilities. Gifts! In this world, they are gifts, hence the title of the book.
The interactions between different characters are well done, the revelations provide some good moments of making the reader really question things, and Esme’s travels, seeking out ingredients for a rare elixir, give plenty of tense moments as well as the opportunity to learn even more about this world.
The worldbuilding in this book is wonderful, as it was in the first, and it really makes the setting come alive, feeling fresh and different. The growing friendships between characters, the new dangers they face and the additional cast really make this a wonderful addition to this series, and I eagerly await the third book!