Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell by Rebecca McRitchie

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

The rollicking sequel to Jinxed! Cora Bell’s Untold Magic is a roller coaster of colourful adventures, humour and, of course, magical antics.  It is bound to please the ever-increasing number of readers who are lovers of fantasy.

The background to Cora’s acquiring her magic skills and becoming a ‘syphon’ is explained in the first pages – and then her saga begins.

Every now and then, frightening dreams are sprinkled along the way, and the action is fast-paced and bristling with the unexpected.  Incidents like one hundred little green gremlins with razor sharp teeth attacking Cora and her fairies Tick and Tock, and exploding in a gooey green mess.  Her magic proves a definite advantage then.  There are shades of Alice in Wonderland when Dot, a witch-like friend, and Scratch, her cat, create a hole in her floor through which Cora and her fairy friends escape and descend into Vanir.

Besides her challenges faced in searching for her lost family and being a feared syphon, there is the additional tension of the hunters and traps that lurk along the way!  While on this quest, Cora is aware that something drastic is gradually causing additional anxiety.  Black cracks appear on her skin, at this stage on her wrist, and slowly spread.  Her one remaining eye turns black after having been a sparkling green.  These are scary signs.  She is becoming one of them!  A havoc!

The book is peopled with a host of strange creatures.  The Council, led by King Klang has a vampire, a hobgoblin, a witch, an elf and a necromancer as members.  As Cora searches for her family, there are many other peculiar beings along the way.

Rebecca McRitchie shows her delightful imagination here.  There is the Singing Shoe Shop, a cake shop where the pastries fly to customers, a fiery orb which divides into multiple orbs to light their progress through dense woods.  Snowballs have a mind of their own.  The most unexpected and charming has to be Martin, a gigantic furry giant who is mistaken for an avalanche at first.  Wanted posters are printed on gold sheets in the town of Yop.  Guaranteed to gain attention.

Excitement abounds.  The weapons and skills are amazing.  The fight with the Syphon hunters, their leader with her glowing red hands, is a thrilling episode.  Cora casts huge nets with great teeth on their borders to defeat her foes.  She has to survive but continual assaults by a string of characters determined to destroy her or steal her powers make for gripping reading.

Rebecca McRitchie has written this very entertaining book aimed at eight-year olds and beyond.  She is a children’s editor and lives in Sydney.  It is obvious that she enjoyed writing this magical journey.  The style is fresh and lively.  Tick and Tock frequently mix up words which is a clever means of fixing attention and raising a chuckle too.

The final chapter ends with a ‘To Be Continued’ promise, so more adventures are in store.  Cora discovers she has a brother as well as long-lost parents.  Finding them, and rescuing them before her creeping black cracks convert her to a havoc, make the waiting difficult for her many fans!  The illustrator lends light relief with her drawings and compliments the story beautifully.

Havoc!  The Untold Magic of Cora Bell

[2020]

Written by Rebecca McRitchie

Illustrated by Sharon O’Connor

Harper Collins

ISBN 978 1 46075 765 9

$17.99; 307pp

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