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New Treasures: Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Verdigris Deep-small Verdigris Deep-back-small

Frances Hardinge has twice been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, for her novels Cuckoo Song and The Lie Tree. Verdigris Deep has previously been published in the US under the title Well Witched (2008), and was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. Amulet has now released it under its original title as part of a set of matching editions with Fly By Night, Fly Trap, and others. Farah Mendlesohn at Strange Horizons said:

Verdigris Deep confirms what I already suspected: Frances Hardinge is the best new fantasy writer for children since Diana Wynne Jones. There is simply no one to match her…

Three children, Josh, Ryan, and Chelle… steal money from an old wishing well. Initially, nothing much happens: then Ryan looks in a mirror and sees water running from his eyes, and passes a poster on which a woman comes alive, her eyes streaming like a fountain. The woman commands him to fulfil the wishes attached to each coin they stole. When Ryan contacts Chelle and Josh he discovers that each of them has acquired “powers” to aid this directive: Josh can now affect electricity and any item that can carry current, while Chelle has become a radio receiver for the wishers—in their vicinity she spills their every thought. Ryan’s “power” remains hidden for a while, mere warts on his hand; but as things proceed the warts develop into eyes which can see the wishes people make as long smoky threads emerging from the chest.

Serving the spirit in the well begins as empowering fun: Ryan, Chelle, and Josh help a young man to win a Harley Davidson, and facilitate a young woman none of them like in finding her true love, but as the story develops it darkens: wishes become more worrying, some of them are out of date and no longer accord with people’s desires yet must still be fulfilled, others are downright nasty or require nastiness to achieve… As the book rolls on to its crescendo, water and emotions flood the page. The ending is deeply satisfying: it is incomplete, problematic, and flows off the edge of the page.

Verdigris Deep was published by Amulet on April 10, 2018. It is 287 pages, priced at $10.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Vincent Chong.

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