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Twelve-year-old Athene and her little brother Zach have nothing in common. Even their names are at the opposite ends of the alphabet. Athene is clever, loves big words and is very neat. Zach is six, has messy hair and is very annoying. Athene has hated Zach ever since she first laid eyes on him in his little white baby blanket.

While the family is vacationing at a remote farmhouse, Athene stumbles upon magical gnome-like folk called the Humble Gloam, who hide from humans whom they call the Glare, only coming out at night. She is having the time of her life with her new Gloam friends when her pesky brother decides to tag along, spoiling her fun as always. Athene tricks Zach into entering a tree stump that she knows has been put under a terrible magic spell by the Low Gloam, the sworn enemies of the Humble Gloam. Anyone who enters the tree stump becomes a slave of the cruel Low Gloam and can never escape. Trusting, naïve, stupid Zach enters the stump and disappears forever. 

Life could not be better for Athene. The Humble Gloam have put a spell on Athene's parents so that they forget Zach ever existed. They spend their days doting on her, and only her. She has everything she has ever wanted, and most especially, there is no Zach around to annoy her. Why then does she feel so bad? 

Athene decides that there is only one thing to do: she must disguise herself as a Gloam and enter the magic tree to rescue her little brother. Accompanied by her new friends, she descends into the underground caves where the Low Gloam hold Zach captive and plots a daring rescue. Can she bring him back, end the long-standing feud between the Low Gloam and Humble Gloam, and maybe even convince the Gloam that humans aren't so bad? 

SPELLBOUND is a charming and funny tale from British children's writer Anna Dale. The first half of the story is considerably stronger than the second half, but the book as a whole is very entertaining. The reader is kept guessing as to what our little firebrand Athene will come up with next. Dale has a winner in the characters of Athene and Zach, and I hope we get to read more about their adventures soon.

Reviewed by Usha Reynolds on June 24, 2008

by Anna Dale

  • Publication Date: July 7, 2009
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1599903709
  • ISBN-13: 9781599903705