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Wren: Delightful flight of fancy that never fails to stir the emotions

From Lucy Hope, author of Fledgling, comes Wren, a second standalone enchanting gothic adventure for readers around eight to 12.

Set against the backdrop of Anglesey, North Wales, Wren, a young girl with the name of a bird longs to be able to fly like ones despite all the obstacles holding her back. With elements of mystery and magic running alongside her desire for freedom from a legacy and home that seem to be tying her down, you root for Wren at every turn.

While the historical setting of 1870 is present and carefully incorporated to make discoveries all the more engaging, Wren’s wild spirit and relatability means it is nonetheless effortless to connect to her experiences that are still relevant to this day.

Wren has grown up in a castle due to the wealth of her ancestors, something her father takes extremely seriously and wishes for Wren to carry on and act out the role of a polite young woman. This attitude has built a home for her that’s restrictive and pressured, where every move wrong is a sign she is unruly, her manners watched even more so within the context of the historical setting.

While every word of disapproval impacts her deeply, Wren has a feeling within her that she can’t ignore. When her mother was alive she was a daredevil, skilled with her mind and hands with the same need to feel free that her daughter inherited. Upon hearing of a French man who successfully created a machine to allow a single human to fly like a bird, she attempted to replicate it but was killed in the process. Her sister Efa, who was with her mother, was permanently injured and became bound to a steam-powered wheelchair

Wren was left a boat from her mother, which she takes out at every opportunity despite the protestations from her father. With his looming threats of a school for disobedient girls known for its cruel punishments the ache in Wren grows.

Armed with a response to the letter from the man whose flying machine her mother had once attempted to imitate she settles on a plan. Wren is determined to learn how to fly and avoid dull polite society.

The two stories of the secret within her family’s old castle and Wren’s search for escape come together expertly as she discovers more about fantastic beasts, both living and built.

The historic, gothic atmosphere pulls the reader in, while remaining accessible to its younger target audience. More than a story about the unusual and mysterious, it is about self belief, finding identity surrounded by that which tries to hold you down and all the complicated meanings of home and family.

The main character is deeply sympathetic, bold and cautious in equal measure while navigating the ever more complicated world around her of whispered secrets and a home with floors that shake and walls that sing with stories for her to discover.

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