Joshua Appleby and the Flaming Sword, by Kim Langley
My review: ★★★
This is a fantasy adventure set in a small town in 1960s England. It’s a magical adventure, as well as a portrayal of life in England at that time. In this world, magic talents exist but are rare, and are kept hidden to protect magic-users. Joshua and his family are dealing with the fact that he is developing the ability to use earth magic. Meanwhile, they’re involved in helping the church put a historical sword on display, and trying to stop a dark adversary from stealing it. Each magic-user is assigned a magical animal companion, invisible to non magic-users, to accompany them through their magical training and life. Joshua is paired with Prudence, a clumsy hare with a big heart, while they both receive oversight from Sylvester Bluesky, the wise old magical wolf who’s paired with Joshua’s mother.
This book has a good plot and a good set of characters. However, the storytelling falls a bit flat. I think that’s mostly because it never goes deeply into the thoughts or feelings of the characters; we hear a lot about what’s happening from the outside, but not a lot about the inside. The cover art design is good but is too low-resolution. The book also needs a good editing pass: there are a lot of errors, especially with punctuation, and it gets a bit distracting.
That said, I liked the peaceful tone of the story, as well as its placement in a less technological but still accessible period. It also sets up a world with a lot more adventure to come. The magic use is not heavy-handed, so it blends very well into a world that’s unaware of magic-users. Which, of course, sets it up to suggest that magic could exist in our world today! This is a good book for anyone who loves magical adventures.