Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
The Secret of Berry Brae Circle is Book 2 in The Red King Trilogy by talented writer EM McIntyre. Written for the middle-grade/tween reader, it offers a winning combination of adventure and fantasy. Fourteen-year-old Abby Fletcher has returned home to present day Scotland with Rory, a fourteenth century Scotsman, where she’s happily reunited with her family. Everyone eagerly heads back to the family bookstore, Fletcher’s Finds, run by Abby’s father in the village of Kinloch-Rannoch, for a proper reunion and some sustenance, but their happiness is short-lived. Somewhat apprehensive about her father’s long absence on another one of his ‘crazy book hunts’, Abby checks the store’s computer and finds an ominous message in the spam folder, “Bring me the Book of Shay or the Librarian dies.” With the clock ticking and her father’s life held in the balance, Abby and Rory, along with her trusty, multi-talented Irish wolfhound, Finlay, go off in search of the Book of Shay.
There’s a wonderful lyrical quality to McIntyre’s prose that lends itself nicely to the Scottish lore which forms the backbone of The Secret of Berry Brae Circle. The dialogue is crisp with the perfect balance between everyday colloquial and the Scottish brogue which adds the right amount of authenticity and reminds the reader of both time and place. The elements of mystery, fantasy and adventure keep the story compelling and there are several neat twists that make things interesting and unpredictable. The characters of Abby and Rory also lend themselves nicely to the story. Abby is the perfect fourteen-year-old protagonist with just the right combination of vulnerability and spunk while Rory is both protector and charming ‘Medieval’ all rolled into one. And no discussion of this book would be complete without mentioning the notable talents of Finlay, Abby’s wolfhound, who is not only telepathic, but can also read! All in all, The Secret of Berry Brae Circle has just the right blend of mystery, adventure and fantasy that is sure to please – along with a few ‘aah’ moments thrown in for good measure. It’s imaginative story telling at its finest.