by Anne Nesbet
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Children's fantasy
Source: own book
From the author's website (http://annenesbet.com):
On their first day in Paris, Maya and her little brother, James, find themselves caught up in some very old magic. Houses with bronze salamanders for door handles, statues that look too much like Maya’s own worried face, a man wearing sunglasses to hide his radiant purple eyes–nothing is what it seems. And what does all that magic want from Maya? With the help of a friendly boy named Valko, Maya discovers surprises hidden in her family tree–grandmothers who walked in magic, a cousin so unremarkable she’s actually hard to see, and a terrible family habit of betraying one’s brother. To save her own brother, Maya must take on the magical underworld of Paris . . . before it is too late.
We got this book up at the Scholastic Books' bookfair at my daughter's school. They were having a buy one get one free sale and we ended up going a little nuts. I picked this book up on a whim because I liked the cover and the description on the back.
Maya's family has been invited to Paris via a fellowship offered to her father by the Society of Philosophical Chemistry. Though Maya is depressed and missing her friends and dog at home, she doesn't put up a fuss, since her mother - still suffering the aftereffects of a battle with cancer - has always dreamed of living in Paris. However, things get weird the very first day - starting with a bronze salamander doorknob that turns to look at Maya.
The book is a little sparse on details - we are never quite sure what Maya's father does (on the other hand, how many kids pay that much attention to what their parents do at work? ) and our peak of Paris is restricted to a small area so you don't that much of a feel for the city - but in some ways this is rather a relief because the story flows organically from the point of view of a child worried about her mother and a little overwhelmed by events. The story is unusual - there are no typical fantasy elements - elves, dragons or such - just a thread of magic.
Overall it flows nicely making for a quick, pleasant read. I quite enjoyed it and am looking forward to grabbing a copy of the second book - A Box of Gargoyles. Four to four and a half claws.