Review: The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne

marsdenGrave robbing is a messy business. A bad business.

And for Thomas Marsden, on what was an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself.

This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death and faery folk.

Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.

Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, and ritual, and that sometimes, just sometimes, the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.

The Accidental After Life of Thomas Marsden is a fun, captivating read. It is exactly what I look for in Middle Grade fantasy; it is well-written, imaginative, thought provoking, and magical.

I loved Trevayne’s other novel, Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times and Thomas Marsden is equally good. There is little to no commonality  between the two novels, a testament to Trevayne’s wonderful imagination. I was actually more reminded of The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill which is a excellent novel that I also recommend.

The story is a twist on the typical changeling tale, so it felt fresh and original. It’s set in Victorian England (an era I love) and is an intriguing and unusual combination of grave digging, spells and spiritualism.

As the story unfolds, none of the characters know the full story so you are never quite sure just how it will end, and there are some interesting twists along the way. How far someone should go in order to rescue others is the question that Thomas faces over and over again as he is caught between saving the fairies and living his own life.

His selfishness made him infinitely more realistic than heroes who drop everything to save others at great personal cost. He also grapples with being an ordinary boy trying to do the extraordinary and learns that sometimes intelligence can be more useful than magic. It was not only Thomas that was wonderfully developed, I really liked all the characters on account of their quirky and multi-faceted personalities.

I think the worst (or perhaps best) part of the story is the fact that while you have to suspend disbelief in respect to the fairies, the evils that humans can and would commit are totally plausible.


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