Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas

Scarlett Thomas, The Chosen Ones (Canongate 978-1-78211-930-2, £12.99, 368pp, hc) April 2018; (Simon & Schuster 978-1-4814-9787-9, $17.99, 374pp, hc) May 2018. Cover by Erwin Madrid.

Effie Truelove and her friends continue their efforts to understand the world of magic while working around obstructive adults, in this second book in the quirky middle-grade Worldquake tril­ogy. Effie Truelove wants to get back to the magi­cal Otherworld, but things keep going wrong; one teacher keeps trying to confiscate her magic ring of the True Hero, and her weak and greedy father is trying to get hold of her belongings, particularly one book he can trade for money, since the not-too-bright author and her publisher have a big plot to destroy all but one copy of that book. (So much here is over the top – in an amusing way – that the implausibility of gathering all copies of a hugely popular book is a minor quibble.) Meanwhile, all of Effie’s friends suddenly have their own problems. The villains here tend to be outrageously venal and clueless, and Thomas keeps them coming, while this world’s weird book magic remains intriguing, especially when com­bined with the author’s somewhat satirical take on writers and writing, and this time it’s revealed that music too has its power. The quirkiness of it all reminds me of Roald Dahl’s children’s books with hints of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, a dark, weird charm rather delightfully removed from Harry Potter.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the September 2018 issue of Locus.

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