The Thirteen Treasures
by Michelle Harrison (Author)
This novel for girls is a mystery story with fairies, in which two children set off into the woods to find out the truth about an old wrongdoing. There are several problems with this text: it is weighed down by too many plotlines that don’t always tie in neatly or clearly together, the prose creaks in places, characterisations are a little flat and character motivation is not always clear where it needs to be. The heroine, Tanya, is brave and resourceful, but turns out to have been completely wrong about many of the people around her. The adults who seemed cold and forbidding, and the fairies that seemed cruel and threatening, turn out to be her protectors, and as the story nears its conclusion, Tanya’s character plays an increasingly passive role in events. Although this makes for an interesting twist to the tale, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it as a reader. It would be interesting to find out what child readers make of a heroine who is rescued by grown-ups, who have been protecting her all along without her knowledge.
Despite a very strong central idea – two children uncovering an old family secret – and lots of good descriptions of fairies, this novel is overcrowded by plot elements that don’t fit clearly together. Nonetheless, it might still be fun for keen readers who like their fairies sinister and traditional. Age: 10+