Title: The Wintrish Girl – Talismans of Fate
Author: Melanie La’Brooy
Reviewer: Natalie Lincoln
If you want to enjoy reading, then read this. Melanie La’Brooy’s The Wintrish Girl -Talismans of Fate is fun. Penn, outcast as a Wintrish girl, must overcome many an obstacle to save not only herself but those that become her friends. Sweet, clever and humorous, a reader bounces from page to page on a fast-paced journey to outwit evil forces. From time to time malevolent undertones remind us of the possibility of darkness but before you know it, you are whisked away and continuing to enjoy the ride.
It would be fair to say there is A LOT of world building here – keeping pace with the many capitalised fantastical elements is a little overwhelming but they add to the charm, making observations about fate, friendship, bullying and the impact of colonial possession. The librarian and English teacher in me adored the awe in which the library is held and the Libraryinth, the maze of books, is brilliant. Call me biased but the acknowledgement that it is a “huge responsibility to be a librarian” made me smile, and as a (much) younger reader, I would have loved this too. In a story where books, even with a subject matter as unlikely as cucumbers, are used as weapons, there is also a recognition that language, specifically titles, are given too much credence, “labels can get mixed up. And they rarely give an accurate description of all the potential contained within.”
My favourite aspect of this novel is most definitely the quirky characters. Dislikeable Gertrude with her head of Ousting Keys is marvellous and while Penn, our protagonist, is a smart, resilient character, it is Arthur that steals the show. Goofy, affable and funny, he is delightful. In a world where people can be cast as broody and unhappy, these characters present a positivity and zest that allow space for hope.
Readers of upper primary and lower secondary years would appreciate this highly imaginative novel and though it does capture shadowy realms, it doesn’t dwell there, maintaining an innocence and optimism. It really doesn’t take itself too seriously and this lightness is refreshing.
Teachers’ notes available for UQP titles via: https://www.uqp.com.au/books