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Verdigris Deep / Well Witched


School Library Journal – starred review, Best Books of 2008

"Grades 4–7 – From the author of Fly by Night (HarperCollins, 2006) comes this contemporary fantasy. After Josh, Ryan, and Chelle steal coins out of a decrepit wishing well in a nearby village, they discover that they are now in the debt of the well witch, who expects them to serve her by fulfilling all the wishes made by people who have tossed coins into the well. At first they go along with the idea; having received special, if unnerving, powers from her, it's an intriguing challenge to make wishes come true. But some wishes are vengeful, misguided, or downright evil, leading Ryan and Chelle to finally stand firm against the angry witch. Josh, however, becomes swept up in his own increasing powers. There is an undercurrent of creepiness that runs through this story, whether it's the sinister, centuries-long influence of the malignant well witch or the ways that ordinary people can become warped, and many scenes and images are deliciously shiver-inducing. The tone is down-to-earth, quirky, and quietly witty, just like Ryan, whose intriguing perceptions of the people and things around him are a vital part of this book's appeal. Fans of dark fantasies such as Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002) will find this tale irresistible." ~ Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Publishers Weekly – starred review

"British author Hardinge's (Fly by Night) supernatural thriller takes off slowly but then becomes inescapably chilling. Stranded in a forbidden location, three friends steal coins from a wishing well to come up with bus fare. To their shock, they find themselves endowed with disturbing powers that emerge in nightmarish forms: Chelle can't stop voicing the thoughts of others, Josh affects electrical currents, and Ryan's knuckles sprout warts with eyes. Before long they realize that they must grant the wishes made by the persons who tossed in the coins – and, it emerges, to grant not their stated wishes, but their unconscious wishes, which prove increasingly menacing. Adhering to the point of view of Ryan, the most stable of the trio, Hardinge lets readers share the impact of his gradual discovery of Josh's sinister side. The author leavens the creepy tone only slightly with Chelle's positive transformation and Ryan's growing tolerance of ambiguity; she shows great faith in her cast's and in her readers' intelligence. Taut as the plotting is, insightful as the characterizations are, the language, especially the imagery, stands out even more: '[Chelle's mother] was always very busy in the way that a moth crashing about in a lampshade is busy.' A dark, polished gem. Ages 8–12." ~ Read more here

Horn Book Magazine – starred review

"Hardinge (Fly by Night) has written a deliciously creepy tale of three children who fall under the power of an elemental divinity when they steal coins from a wishing well. Eyes grow on Ryan's knuckles; Josh starts sending all electronic devices around him haywire; Chelle compulsively speaks the thoughts of the people whose wished-on coins the children stole. Between the three of them, they must fulfill those old wishes to repay their debt. But wishes are complicated, Ryan realizes: 'They're sort of like conkers… There's an outer bit which is what the wish seems to be, but there's another bit inside which is kind of the real wish.' It is those 'great big, painful, simple wishes… Life. Death. Love. Revenge' that the well divinity understands and that make Ryan and Chelle determine to break her hold on them. But Josh, unloved, angry, and proud, becomes increasingly drawn in to her destructive power. There is a vividness and energy to Hardinge's imagination that makes almost every moment of this absorbing story shine with light or glossy darkness. Its imagery is always surprising and potent, and Hardinge evokes the painful, confused power of the elemental spirit with the forcefulness of a river in flood."

Booklist – starred review

"Hardinge, the English writer whose first novel was Fly by Night (2006), sets her second in contemporary England, where friends Ryan, Josh, and Chelle become stranded in an outlying area and need bus fare home. Josh's idea of climbing down into an old wishing well and swiping coins answers their immediate problem. But after they learn that the ancient spirit living in the well has granted them weird, unwieldy powers and demands that they make other people's wishes (those made on the stolen coins) come true, events begin to spiral out of control. First published last year in England as Verdigris Deep, this compelling, though sometimes disquieting fantasy is richly layered with fine, figurative language, quirky but believable characters, and old magic playing its way out rather blindly from the past to the present. The many young readers who look to fantasy as their best source of adventure stories will enjoy the many suspenseful scenes here, though they may find the narrative's darkness and density oppressive at times. Still, there's no denying Hardinge's power as a storyteller, her ability to create beautiful, precise imagery, or her expectation that her readers will grasp the subtle ideas and reflections woven into the novel." ~ Carolyn Phelan

Who will be the next Harry? Telegraph feature

"The plot is well thought-out and full of twists and turns on the way to a surprising end… As good as Harry? Yes." ~ Louis Prosser, 13, The Telegraph, 15 July 2007

Strange Horizons

"Verdigris Deep confirms what I already suspected: Frances Hardinge is the best new fantasy writer for children since Diana Wynne Jones. There is simply no one to match her, and I include within that constituency the likes of Philip Pullman." ~ Farah Mendlesohn, Strange Horizons, 11 July 2007

The Book Smugglers

"In spite of all of the hijinks, the fear and the creepy factor of the novel as the kids get more and more involved with the Spirit of the Well, this is much more of an understated, quiet novel. Because this is a book that is much more about the microcosm than the macro, it doesn’t end in Revolution or Change with capital letters in quite the same way that Hardinge’s other books do. But it is still in many ways, a book about revolution and change just as much because in the end, the kids’ lives have been altered, bettered and they have grown up. It is a very emotional, touching and humane story." ~ ana, read more

Bunbury in the Stacks

"Well Witched was a harrowing adventure story, but it is the underlying feeling it gave me that I will remember long after I’ve returned the book to its shelf. It focuses on friendship, child-parent relationships, and the darker side of people in ways that are rarely examined in Middle Grade literature. It is fun, fantastical, and unexpectedly chilling." ~ read more

UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK hardback, paperback and Kindle published: 10 May 2012
UK hardback ISBN-10: 0230748791
UK hardback ISBN-13: 978-0230748798
UK paperback ISBN-10: 0230763502
UK paperback ISBN-13: 978-0230763500
Kindle ASIN: B007WTR9T2