Esme's Wish

Young Adult - Fantasy - General
254 Pages
Reviewed on 08/03/2017
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

Elizabeth Foster read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago, when reading to her own kids reminded her of how much she missed getting lost in other worlds. Once she started writing, she never looked back. She’s at her happiest when immersed in stories, plotting new conflicts and adventures for her characters. Elizabeth lives in Sydney, where she can be found scribbling in cafés, indulging her love of both words and coffee.

Her first novel, Esme's Wish, a fantasy-mystery for younger teens, was published by Odyssey Books in October 2017. Esme's Gift, the second in the trilogy will follow in late 2018.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Sarah Scheele for Readers' Favorite

Esme’s Wish is a captivating, excellently-written novel. Author Elizabeth Foster did a great job of keeping me reading as I followed Esme’s journey to investigate the disappearance of her mother, a brilliant painter. A messenger bird and a trail of clues in her mother’s art diary lead young Esme through a portal to the dimension of Aeolia. In Aeolia, the city of Esperance rises from an enchanted ocean. Water is the heart and soul of Aeolia’s being—and as Esme begins to discover that water is the core of her being as well, she finds clues about her mother’s doings here. But Esperance is in trouble. Earthquakes are tearing the city apart and time is running out for Esme to solve the puzzle.

This colorful, well-constructed tale is as much detective story as fantasy and deftly blends both elements into a page-turning plot that hooks the reader in. I was fascinated by the creative water world of Aeolia, described in Elizabeth Foster’s limpid, seductive prose. As Esme learns, “The history of Aeolia is writ in water,” and I liked the elaborate, detailed spin the story took on this idea. People in Esperance can live underwater, breathe underwater, walk on water, and manipulate water, and most people are born with a special magical Gift. The world’s lushly described architecture, mythology, sirens, and dragons create the allure of being whisked away into a great adventure, and every chapter offers another piece of Aeolia to explore. Esme’s Wish ends on a bit of an abrupt note, leaving room for more tales of Esperance yet to come.

Immerse yourself in a quest

“I’m going to find out what happened to you, Mum, no matter what.”

From the startling opening wedding scene of Esme’s Wish to the highly satisfying conclusion, this novel aimed at younger readers is a fine read for those of any age who still yearn for wondrous worlds. This older, ahem, vastly older reader, felt immersed in Aeolia's realm of blue water and orange dragons. I enjoyed the pacing, the mystery, and also the perfect language which does not assume that younger readers will flinch from some longer words that are precisely placed for the sentence. Above all, I was gripped by a fallible child’s quest for her missing mother, Ariane, and, as her doubts grew about Ariane’s actions and motives, her determination to find the truth.

The praise I’d meant to lavish on this book can be read in so many reviews by delighted readers that I will take another tack: how the producer of the movie (a movie must be made) could so easily bungle it, as they have for too many once-glittering worlds (poor ruined Narnia, for instance).

“Silently she sat, swamped by a loneliness her small frame couldn’t contain”.

Bungle one: the casting. Fifteen year old Esme with hair “as stringy as sea grass matting” feels small and abandoned, lurching between nights of despair and getting her nerve up for each stage of her quest. She must not be portrayed as a drop-dead gorgeous, confident 19 year old who need only flick her hair to bring wizards and warriors rushing to her help.

“ .. Esme barrelled into a boy … A spyglass flew out of his hand, spun high in the air, and thwacked him on the side of his head on the way down.”

Bungle two: The dreaded sloppy romance angle. There isn’t one. In what a producer will itch to turn into a classic movie “meet cute” scene, Esme does run into Daniel. She also meets a girl, Lillian. The point here is that Esme, after having been shunned for years, must go about the awkward and messy business of learning what it is like to have friends.

“This library holds the largest collection of song spells in all of Aeolia”.

Bungle three: skimming over Esme’s search in favour of visual "action": earthquakes, swooping dragons, and strange creatures in lagoons. Esme’s strength is that she starts with only a few clues and her determination, but keeps on at it, scouring compendiums and researching the wonderful Library. She absorbs new learning, both magic and science, plans out her moves and takes sometimes incautious lunges forward without help. No magic wands to solve it all here.

“The dots were soon recognisable as a flight of orange dragons, their wings beating like sails beneath bolting clouds”.

The world of Aeolia is breathtaking, and the producer’s instinct to flood our retinas with overblown imagery would detract from the story. This is about Esme and Ariane. Try instead, producers, to match Elizabeth Foster’s craft: make your scenes fleeting and vivid, deft brushstrokes rather than visual battering rams.

I will leave you now to the wind-played harps and song spells of Esperance in Aeolia.