Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen
by J.L. McCreedy (2013) ****
I came across this book as temporarily free for Kindle, and as I had just finished another book and felt like reading something lighter next, I got started on this one directly.
The first chapter or two made me initially suspect that it might be too much of an imitation of Harry Potter; but as the story proceeded, I think it turned out to stand on its own feet. Of course it has evident roots in a magic fairy-tale tradition familiar from both old and new classics in that genre, but it is also spiced with some less common ingredients. It’s a fast-paced story with some unexpected twists, and a variety of characters turning up along the way.
It starts out with a new friendship between two ten-year-old girls in a US small town – Liberty Frye and Ginny Gonzalez. Ginny lives with foster parents that don’t really care much about her. Liberty (or Libby) lives with her parents, but is considered a bit odd by many. She has a tame goose that follows her everywhere, and in her garden grows an unusual tree, in which she likes to sit and read the Fairy Tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. We (and Ginny) also get to meet an uncle of Libby’s, who is very old, but still an active inventor of fantastic machines. However, one day a strange letter arrives for Libby’s parents, and shortly after that, they take her on a sudden trip abroad, to visit relatives in Germany (without giving much explanation as to the reason). More specifically, it turns out that Libby’s mother comes from the town where the Brothers Grimm were born… And from then on, things start to get really complicated! (The title of the book gives a hint.) Ginny is left behind on the other side of the earth; but when she senses that Libby might be in danger, she starts looking for a way to help…
Putting on my critical glasses, I think that the story sprawls a bit too much; with too many “unconnected” ingredients thrown in to the mix. But at the same time I did find it very enjoyable reading, with lots of surprises and suspense – and a good portion of humour to contrast the creepy parts.
From linguistic point of view (spelling etc) the reading of this book flows smoothly (knowing a little bit of German probably gives you an advantage, though). (As I’ve come across many free and/or self-published Kindle books which turned out to contain an irritating amount of printing and/or spelling errors, I feel I want to point out that this is not one of those!)
There are many details in the story that might be interesting to pursue if you like looking things up on the internet. I also think it’s safe to say that I did feel that the story came to a proper ending, but at the same time left a door ajar for the possibility of sequels.
There is a website providing more info about the book and author, without being too revealing: