For ages 10 and up
Egmont, 2010, 978-1-60684-031-3
When she wakes up on a cold winter’s morning, Emily Snow has no idea that the day ahead of her is going to be a very unusual one. As usual she gets up and sets off for the market to buy her supply of watercress, bunches of which she will sell to make a little money. Though she is only twelve years old, Emily has to take care of her little brother William, making sure that she earns enough to keep him fed, clothed, and with a roof over his head.
Three years ago Emily and Will’s father left home and never came back. Then, not long after, their mother vanished as well. Since then, Emily has had to shoulder the burden of caring for her little brother alone. Sometimes the responsibility weighs on Emily, but she presses on, doing the best she can.
When she is halfway to the market, Emily witnesses a fight between two groups of people. Fights are reasonably common on London’s streets, but fights between two sets of beings who are less than half the height of a twelve year old girl are not. Emily can hardly believe her eyes, but before she can investigate, the creatures suddenly disappear.
Soon after sighting the fight, a tall and rather terrifying man called Mr. Ravenhill questions Emily about what she has seen. She denies seeing anything and gets away from the man as soon as she can. Then Emily discovers that she has lost the penny that she was going to use to buy her day’s supply of cress. She must have dropped it in the alley where she witnessed the strange fight. Though she does not want to go back to the alley, Emily returns there. If she does not buy some cress to sell, she and William will not be able to eat that evening.
Back in the alley, Emily finds one of the creatures who was involved in the fight that she witnessed. The creature explains that he is piskie from Cornwall, and his name is Corrigan. Then Corrigan and Emily are attacked by the Black Sidhe, pixies who hate Corrigan and his kind. Not knowing what else to do, Emily picks up Corrigan, who is injured, and runs away.
Corrigan then explains that the Black Sidhe arrow sticking out of his leg is poisoned and that he needs Emily to carry him to a place where his wound can be tended by someone who knows how to deal with such things.
At a bookshop owned by Merrian, a half giant, Corrigan’s wounds are treated, and Emily finds out that London is not only home to humans, it is also home to countless creatures of Faerie. Most humans cannot see the piskies, faeries, gnomes and other magical beings, but some, like Emily, can. Apparently the creatures of faerie used to be united in their dislike of humans, but then a split occurred between the Seelie and the Unseelie. The Seelie are led by the Faerie Queen, and the Unseelie are led by King Dagda. Urged on by their rulers, the two sides have been fighting off and on ever since the split.
As if this isn’t confusing enough, Emily learns that there is an organization called the Invisible Order, a group of humans who are bent on ridding the world of all the creatures of Faerie. The sinister Mr. Ravenhill is one of their number.
Once she is sure that Corrigan is going to be fine, Emily sets off for home, eager to forget all about piskies and other magical creatures. She soon discovers that this is not going to be easy to do. For some reason, the Seelie, the Unseelie and the Invisible Order all want something from Emily. She is caught in the middle of a battle for power and she doesn’t even know why.
Readers who like stories about magical creatures are going to be thrilled with this book, which is the first title in a new series. It is fascinating to see how the story unfolds, and how Emily deals with the problems that she if forced to face.