The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff
Jemma thinks she is the youngest daughter of the Agromond family, readying herself for the day her Powers will finally reveal themselves fully. But before that can happen, her true past is revealed and Jemma understands why she has never been able to do the black magic that her family does so easily. Now she has to escape their castle and enter the dangerous mist that can read a person’s intentions. She only has the help of her two golden rats, a decrepit old servant, and a trusted friend, Digby. Lost and wandering in the mist, Jemma has to battle monsters, flee from those sent to find her, and convince the mist itself that she is not a threat. As she travels, ghostly children try to seek her help, crying for their brothers and sisters in the castle. Jemma has to learn the truth of not only her own past but of the castle and the horrors that are hidden there.
This is such a compelling read! Grindstaff’s slow reveal of the truth is very deftly done in this carefully plotted novel. She does not flinch away from true horrors here, never hiding from what it would truly take to create a force like the mist and have such dark powers. The plotting during the time that Jemma is lost in the mist does meander a bit, but happily that is not made up by speeding up the ending.
Jemma is a compelling heroine with her self-doubt and fear. Yet she is an incredibly brave heroine, risking herself for others. I particularly enjoyed the part towards the end when she had to continually revise her plans based on what was happening at the time. It made for a very complex and exceptional read. It also took away from the reader the ability to predict what would happen, making the ending a much more immediate experience.
This is a strong debut novel that reads like a stand alone. While I wouldn’t mind more adventures from Jemma, I look forward to seeing what Grindstaff has to offer us next. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy received from Delacorte Press.