Book Review: Esme's Wish

Esme's Wish
Published By: Odyssey Books
Publication Date:  October 30, 2017
Page Count: 252
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: eARC kindly provided by publisher
Middle Grade Fantasy

Esme Silver's mother has been missing for years and is presumed dead.  Her father is marrying a person of dubious charm.  While they are away honeymooning, fifteen year-old Esme runs away to make a last ditch effort to find her mother, Ariane.  Travelling to Ariane's last known location, Esme stumbles (or rather swims) through a portal to another world. A world, it turns out, that her mother spent a great deal of time in.

This week, I find myself in the frustrating position of reviewing a book that many others seem to enjoy, but that for me was just okay.  I feel like Esme was not a fully realized character.  Aside from running away, she wasa pretty passive character. Much of what moves the story forward once she arrives in Esperance comes from other people, which made it hard to connect with her, as a reader, or to feel invested in the outcome of the story.  I found myself much more interested in her mother and the dragonriders who make a brief appearance.

Another thing that made it difficult to connect with Esme's Wish as either an adventure story or as a journey of self-discovery is the lack of danger.  Esme knows how she came to be in Esperance and how to get back (the same way she came), so she could go back at any time.  For 95% of the story, she is never in any danger, never lacks for food, clothing, shelter, money, or friends.  With no fundamental obstacles in her way, it comes as no surprise that she does not change as a person over the course of the novel.  As in real life, no true challenge means no true growth.

The one thing that I did honestly enjoy about the book was the setting.  The author vividly realizes the island city of Esperance.  I loved the oceanic themes and mythological allusions woven into everything from the architecture of the city to the names of places and characters.  Ultimately though, despite the lovely setting, Esme's Wish did not hold up for me in comparison with other middle-grade alternate world stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, or Gregor the Overlander.


When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

This fresh, inventive tale, the first in an MG-to-YA series, is an ideal read for 10-14 year olds.