Shattered by her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Esme is unable to move on. Her father’s re-marriage is the last straw, especially when she finds out that her guardian during her father’s honeymoon will be the interfering older sister of her new stepmother. Drawn by unanswered questions, and a mysterious sea eagle, Esme finds herself at Spindrift, the site of her mother’s disappearance. There she tumbles into a whole new world.

Elizabeth Foster’s debut novel, Esme’s Wish, has so many strengths it is hard to know where to start. I will resort to using headings.

The prose.
Delightful. Here is but one example:

‘She couldn’t see the woman’s face, but it didn’t matter. There was a map of this person within her, one that she had folded and unfolded countless times. The fall of her hair, the slope of her shoulders, the shape of her was more than enough.’

The world building.
The enchanted world of Aeolia is delightful, the city of Esperance reminiscent of Venice, with its canals, yet steeped in the lore of the sea. It is a city beneath the waves that is also above sea level, a land with its own magic which is waning, yet still indescribably unique.

‘At the mention of ‘Aron’ the bag came to life. It quivered and puffed like a set of bellows, before stretching out to more than its original size. Esme watched the bag’s contortions in awed silence. When it had stopped expanding, she fumbled with the drawstring and peered inside.’

The friendships
In Aeolia, Esme meets Lilian, who longs to acquire the gift of singing songspells, and Daniel who wants to be a ranger and tame dragons. Initially at odds, Lilian and Daniel have past differences to overcome, while Esme in her turn must learn to trust and open up to her new friends.

The quest
Like all good fantasy novels there is a quest. In Esme’s case it is simple – to find her mother. But it soon becomes apparent that her mother’s disappearance was far from simple. That it is, in some strange way, linked to Aeolia’s waning magic, linked so strongly that Esme begins to doubt her mothers motives. What will her friends think if they find out the truth? Will she find the courage to face her fears?

Esme’s Wish marks the beginning of a delightful new fantasy series for upper primary and lower secondary school readers. I thoroughly enjoyed my immersion in its world.