Reviewed by Alyssa Elmore for Readers' Favorite
What would you do if you finally got accepted as an apprentice to your dream mentor? Would you go, even if it meant leaving your family in another country? A Dash of Belladonna by J. Rackham is a children's fantasy novel about a young girl learning valuable lessons on how to use her magical abilities with integrity. When fourteen-year-old Charlotte "Lottie" Underwood was accepted as an apprentice to one of the most notorious potion masters extraordinaire, she felt she was living in a dream. A few weeks later, Lottie finds herself deep in a black and purple nightmare. A maniacal mage has turned murderer and is on the loose, searching for magical children to harvest their blood. He is armed with the intent to end the way ethical magic is practiced, and he has a desperate need for blood which contains concentrated magic - Lottie appears to be the mage's next logical target!
Lottie is concerned for her well-being and begs to be taught protection spells, but her new master will tell her little and doesn't want her to concern herself with adult issues. Lottie is quickly losing her patience with her master and his assistant. As Lottie struggles to make sense of the partial picture her new teachers are revealing, she discovers that half-truths and arrogant independence are a deadly mix in a threatening situation. Just as she thinks she has learned her lesson, Lottie stumbles on another truth that proves to be far more fatal than she first assumed. Now, she has realities to face, a puzzle to solve, and lives to save; all while trying to be a responsible adult. Will she succeed, or will she destroy the lives of her new family?
A Dash of Belladonna by J. Rackham is an action-packed children's fantasy. Written as letters to her best friend Snu, the conversation seemed to be rather one-sided considering there are never any replies, leaving this reader wondering if Snu was merely a figment of the heroine's imagination. Then, I believe that there may be a point to Lottie's friend's seeming silence. Regardless, the story is fascinating, and the twists kept me on the very edge of my seat. I couldn't find a good place to stop reading; I had to finish the book before I could fully relax! The book is clean, though there were a few blacked out areas of dialogue that were a touch questionable, but the reader would have to guess the poor language choices of the characters. I would recommend this book to young teens as the story is engaging and the message inspiring and essential.