Reviews & Reactions

WrinkledCrownSpineTitle Reviews of The Wrinkled Crown (Available now from these booksellers!)

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 1.17.34 PMSchool Library Journal (starred review): “Gr 3-7–Linny is approaching her coming-of-age ‘twelve ceremony’ when she will at last be able to touch a lourka—the almost magical, exquisitely toned, stringed instrument—named for Linny’s village in the wrinkled hills. The instrument has been forbidden to her until now. The trouble is, Linny has actually already broken this strict rule and made her own lourka, which she plays in secret, and only her best friend Sayra knows. This transgression sets in motion a chain of events that leaves Linny no choice but to journey to Bend, the Broken City of the plains, to find a remedy for the curse she has inadvertently caused to threaten Sayra’s life. Fortunately for Linny, her good friend Elias will not let her go alone. Facing a host of Orwellian gray-suited map-making enemies, and with the assistance of a Half-Cat and a magician, Linny discovers that her journey has already been foretold, even to the very dress she wears, given to her by her mother for her birthday. War is imminent in the Broken City as magic clashes with math and science, and when Elias and Linny are separated, Elias is recruited as a terrorist. Linny must use all her intelligence and intuition to save them both. Nesbet has a sure touch in bringing this breathless tale to tween readers. Her characters are realistic and likable, and kids will care about them. Nesbet’s writing is deft and unpredictable, with adventure following adventure, keeping readers hooked to the end, and with hints of a sequel to come. Linny’s strength lies in her openness to embrace scientific knowledge and marry it to the magic of intuition. The Broken City can be a metaphor for many current destabilized regions, but it’s a place where a young girl can save the world if she uses her intelligence—and learns to read a map. VERDICT This well-developed fantasy/adventure is a first purchase for middle grade collections.”–Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

TheWrinkledCrownHalfCatKirkus “A rebellious girl breaks a community taboo, unintentionally endangers her dearest friend, and scrambles through a series of dangerous encounters to make things right. Nesbet’s confident worldbuilding creates a fascinating picture of two diametrically opposed cultures: wrinkled (pastoral, magical, and mysterious) and Plain (filled with hard surfaces and sharp angles, technologically advanced, and deeply suspicious of magic). She populates this world with characters simultaneously familiar and fresh. There’s heroine Linnet, friend and companion Elias, a scheming magician, a power-hungry regent, a mad scientist of sorts, a helpful, newly discovered relative, and a magical cat, among others. Each plays a role as Linny travels the length of the world to seek a remedy for her friend Sayra’s sickness. The plot gallops along from capture to escape and triumph to disaster, with multiple instances of each and cliffhangers aplenty. Meanwhile, the author paints a thought-provoking picture of the ways that misunderstandings and miscommunication can create animosity and how both the conflicts of those in power and the power of story can shapes the lives of everyday citizens. The messages are clear; luckily they are delivered with enough subtlety to keep the tone from turning preachy. With hints of a sequel to come, this agreeable adventure introduces an appealing, spunky heroine and sets the stage for more conflict and compromise to come.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 6.52.39 PMLOCUS Magazine: “Anne Nesbet is an author to watch. Her first two novels (The Cabinet of Earths and A Box of Gargoyles) were set in a contemporary Paris, and had some lovely multicultural touches with a style very reminiscent of E. Nesbit and Edward Eager, but without copying them at all. Her third novel, The Wrinkled Crown, is a good step forward: on one level, it has many of the trappings of a pseudo-medieval fantasy, but the world is very much not ours. It’s divided into areas where something like magic works (the wrinkled areas) and areas where it doesn’t (the plains areas). People born into one area get sick (and sometimes die) when they try to live in the other, and the people of the Plains use a lot of technology, and send out Surveyors to try to map the wrinkled areas and straighten them out. The protagonist, Linnet (Linny for short) is born in a wrinkled village where girls are forbidden to even touch a lourka (a musical instrument) before their 12th birthday. Of course, she defies this taboo, and actually builds an instrument. This has dreadful consequences involving her friend Sayra. She [Linny] is unintentionally exiled to the Plains, along with her friend Elias, where her presence becomes a bone of contention between magicians and technologists, and finds she’s the subject of a prophecy. It all eventually resolves well, as is almost necessary in a book aimed at ages 8-12. Two things make this book stand out in a field of similar novels for tweens. One is the intelligence of Nesbet’s world building: there’s a deep understanding of musical instrument construction, a subtle sense that the wrinkledness is related to mathematically accessible parallel worlds rather than just being magic, and a recognition of the pragmatics of people traveling to a culture they don’t know. The other is a firm grounding in older children’s literature. Nesbet manages to convey all that world building without beating the reader over the head with it. It’s subtle and intelligent, making me think of such classics as Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth at one point and of the best of Diana Wynne Jones at another. Nesbet even includes the obligatory animal figure (a half-cat who is half-magical, half-technological, and all cat)–and makes the animal quite believable. I can quibble with bits of the book, but overall Nesbet has produced a book that has the potential to live for a long time. She’s gone right to the top of my ‘Read Immediately’ list, because I’m sure I’m going to get a book that challenges and satisfies in an age-appropriate way, and that I’ll think about for a long time as an adult. I really want to see where Nesbet goes as a writer: as in the case of Diana Wynne Jones, her early books had the seed of greatness in them, and with this one, it’s sprouting.” –Tom Whitmore

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 1.17.34 PMHorn Book: “In Linnet’s village surrounded by enchanted, ‘wrinkled’ hills, girls mustn’t touch the traditional stringed instrument, the lourka, before they’re twelve. But Linny (full of ‘music fire’) has more than touched a lourka; she’s built one for herself. On her twelfth birthday, she expects to die for her transgression. Instead, it’s her friend Sayra who begins to fade into the unreachable realm called Away. Searching for a cure for Sayra before she’s gone for good, Linny and her lummox friend Elias travel out of their magic land into countries polarized by cultural rigidity–where mathematical precision, applied science, and artisanal craft contend against one another, and peace is threatened by weapons that do ‘something terrible to the the structure of the world.’ Nesbet’s fable (which gestures toward a sequel) explores the relationship of science, logic, and imagination, forging ahead with eventfulness and visual richness. A cozy, personable narrative voice punctuates the drama with light humor: ‘You really should know someone well before you talked about drowning him,’ the narrator exclaims to the reader; or “sometimes hiding is the right solution, and sometimes a girl just has to run like the wind and hope she’s faster than the angry people after her.’ –Deirdre F. Baker

GargoylesTitle Reviews of A Box of Gargoyles

Kirkus (starred review): “Receiving birthday well-wishes is a delight, unless one of those greetings is on creepy green stationery that obligates you to reanimate a supposed-to-be-dead wicked relative. Demonstrating that Paris isn’t always baguettes and bicycles, Maya’s 13th-birthday happiness is challenged from every angle. Her mother falls ill, her best (and only) friend, Valko, is being sent to Bulgaria, and an off-putting ripple of something peculiar is gradually transforming Paris for the worse. Maya soon realizes that Henri de Fourcroy, the cousin she banished but didn’t exactly kill, is behind the dark wave of strangeness changing the city. With the use of some sinister stationery, Henri binds Maya to helping him rematerialize at the eventual cost of her own life. Thus the struggle to save herself and the world from the growing circle of mischievous magic commences as gargoyles, a madwoman and a purple-eyed shadow stalk her. A twist of the magic makes its transformative effects visible only to Maya and Valko, cementing this as a battle they must strategically fight without adult help. Stone monsters and spells aside, this is at its core a tale of summoning intellect, guts and logic to save the day. This sequel to The Cabinet of Earths (2012) has, like Maya, only become more refined, its vividly sensory third-person narration artful and immediate. And though reading the previous book is helpful, it can substantially stand on its own. A flavorful mille-feuille with equally tasty layers of dark magic, light comedy and salty determination.”

GargoyleMayaHorn Book: “By the end of Nesbet’s The Cabinet of Earths (rev. 1/12), Maya has vanquished her immortality-hungry relative Henri de Fourcroy to his proper state—ashes and dust. But in the time-honored tradition of sequels, Maya’s nemesis doesn’t quite sputter out: he reappears as a ‘bent-over smoke streak of a man’ who hides his mind in the stones of a Paris wall, casting a spell that will force Maya to restore his vitality. Maya and her friend Valko struggle to outwit the spell (since they can’t resist it), contending with gargoyles, a gargoyle egg, and a very bad violinist, as well as convulsive waves of magic that promise to change not just Paris but all the world. The logic of Nesbet’s plot is rather ornate, but there’s plenty of strength and charm here—especially in the animated, personal voice of the narrator, who seems to speak out of Maya’s own head but, at the same time, offers its own sympathetic interpretation of events. And Nesbet’s style is both animated and animating: through pervasive personification—’the smell of rocks beginning to lose their temper'; drizzle moving on ‘to bother somebody else’s day'; memories that are ‘pretty shy creatures’—all elements of her story fairly quiver with life.” –deirdre f. baker

BrighterGargoyleBooklist: “Since making peace with the Cabinet of Earths, Maya has settled into a happy and relatively normal adolescent existence as an expat in Paris. But the deep magic of the City of Light is not through with her yet, as an animate stone wall and a mysterious shadowy figure seek the sustenance of her spirit. Nesbet continues to cast a particular spell over her proceedings, threading the twisting narrative with inventive fantasy. After a compulsory exposition, the reader is immersed in a dense, shimmering realm sure to please fans of The Cabinet of Earths (2012) and likely to win new ones.” — Thom Barthelmess

BoxofGargoylesCoverSchool Library Journal: “Gr 4-8–This sequel to The Cabinet of Earths (HarperCollins, 2012) begins shortly after Maya Davidson’s victory against her wicked, “sort of” uncle, the powerful magician Henri de Fourcroy. Just as the 12-year-old is beginning to relax and enjoy her new life in Paris, strange things start happening around her. A mysterious swirl of dust that seems to have the shape and colors of a purple-eyed man is following her, and growing regions of magical transformation bring danger and threatening magical creatures to the city. When Maya inadvertently reads a letter that holds a magical compulsion, it seems that she will be forced to give up her own life in exchange for Henri’s. With the help of her friends Valko and Pauline, Maya is determined to outwit the constraints of the letter and defeat Henri again. Magical gargoyles and their egg add to the mystery as Maya tries to understand what they need her to do and how they can help her with her mission. Nesbet creates threatening evil and an engagingly magical setting. She gives Maya real doubts and worries, particularly about protecting her family and her mother’s recurring illness. Fans of the first book will enjoy this next installation, but it functions smoothly on its own as well.”–Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI

CabinetTitleLittleReviews of The Cabinet of Earths

Publishers Weekly: “Nesbet’s auspicious debut novel plunges readers into the story of 13-year-old Maya and her five-year-old brother, James, who are descendants of two feuding families with expertise in science and magic. After the siblings’ chemist father receives a fellowship, Maya and her family move from California to Paris, where she quickly becomes enmeshed in a mystery involving the disappearance of local children in decades past; ‘anbar,’ an alchemical substance with rejuvenating powers; and the strange and beautiful Cabinet of Earths that seems to call out to her. With her mother’s health in decline, James the target of evil forces, and distant relatives coming out of the woodwork, Maya decides to answer the call of the cabinet, despite the dangers, to try to set things right. Blending elements of magic, science, and even horror with evocative prose and a confident narrative voice, Nesbet immerses readers in her contemporary Parisian setting. At its heart, this is a story about change, as Maya struggles to accept unwelcome developments while growing aware of the sinister extent to which some will go in the name of self-preservation.”

Kirkus:Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Les Invalides. Then there’s that sinister cult addicted to immortality. Prompted by her father’s job offer and to ultimately fulfill the wish of her mother, 13-year-old Maya and her family uproot their lives in California for an across-the-pond move to Paris. Though she has her objections, Maya can hardly voice them to her mother, a delicate cancer survivor. So, despite her brewing frustrations, she is dutifully accommodating, all while acting as the unpaid babysitter for her ebullient younger brother, James, to smooth the transition. However, Maya and James soon discover a hypnotically alluring cabinet, peculiar branches in their family tree and an underground society with a morbid recipe for staying eternally young. Though it’s easy to generalize this as a coming-of-age tale, Nesbet more specifically pinpoints this as the story of a young girl coming to terms with mortality while realizing that finding her intrinsic worth makes her content and also inspires her appreciation of those around her. The underground society (to which Maya and her brother are more closely tied than she could have ever imagined) morphs from simply a strange affair to an intriguing mystery to downright chills. While touches of the ever-popular fantasy theme of vampirism are definitely there, they are appropriately held at bay. A charmingly creepy European vacation for fans of chillers and thrillers.”

The Winter 2011-2012 Kids’ Indie Next List “Strange things begin to happen when 13-year-old Maya and her family move from California to Paris for a year. She meets odd relatives, including the strange, almost invisible Cousin Louise, and an older cousin who takes care of an ornate cabinet seemingly filled with bits of earth. Danger seems near as an odd ‘Uncle’ with purple eyes takes a special interest in Maya’s exuberant five-year-old brother, James. Readers will enter this eerie atmosphere and find themselves holding their breath as Maya tries to rescue James and solve the mysterious meaning of the Cabinet of Earths.” — Barbara Katz, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

VOYA:It was his own grandmother who fed Henri-Pierre to the Cabinet of Earths, long ago when he was only four. With this opening line, Anne Nesbet’s fantasy novel instantly hooks readers and keeps them engaged throughout the entire story. Although the novel opens up with poor Henri’s tale, thirteen-year-old Maya and her five-year-old brother James take center stage when they move to Paris and discover the Cabinet of Earths and its sinister secrets. Henri’s ancestors found a way to merge science and magic, which they used to achieve immortality, but at a terrible cost. Maya has enough on her plate, dealing with homesickness, jealousy, and her mother’s cancer, but the Cabinet of Earths chooses her as its next keeper. Maya must decide between saving her mother’s life and doing what she knows is right. Nesbet has written a unique, interesting fantasy with just enough suspense to keep readers turning the pages long into the night. The language is descriptive and lively; the Cabinet of Earths and the mysterious Henri-Pierre’s house leap off the pages. Fantasy readers of all ages, especially middle school students, will enjoy this story.”-Jen McIntosh.

Horn Book: “‘Well! It is better to read fairy tales than to find yourself caught in them,’ Nesbet’s narrator declares, a predictor of what is to be found in the subsequent pages–for Nesbet’s story is a-shimmer with magic, in plot, characters, and literary style. In Paris with her family for a year, Maya is bemused by many things: her cousin Louise (‘too vague to be properly ordinary’ and ‘less notable than people usually are, somehow’); the door handle next door (a bronze salamander that actually flicks its tongue at her); and the discovery of an elderly relative, keeper of the mysterious Cabinet of Earths. Then there are her family worries: her frail mother, recovering from chemotherapy; her overly charming little brother . . . . Maya finds herself pondering the values of liveliness and mortality in a life-or-death struggle when she becomes the next Keeper of the Cabinet of Earths. Nesbet’s first novel is an impressive achievement, its substance and style gracefully blended. The bright, engaged narrative voice whisks us along with breezy, intelligent energy; words are neatly fitted, nicely unpredictable, and resonant with multiple meanings. Above all, Maya is a fully rounded, complex character, someone whose qualities and struggles are admirably and appealingly central to the fantasy.” – Deirdre F. Baker

Shelf Awareness: “This debut novel of intrigue, family betrayal and an unsolved case of missing children will grip readers from first page to last. In 1944 Paris, a youthful woman acts as keeper of the Cabinet of Earths, filled with beautiful bottles. Each bottle contains the ‘earth’ of a person and hold time at a standstill; as long as his or her earth remains in its bottle, the human being will not age. But when one of the Keeper’s sons betrays the other, she embraces her mortality and bequeaths her vocation to her four-year-old grandson, Henri-Pierre Fourcroy. Slave to the cabinet and now in his 60s, Henri awaits a worthy successor. Enter 13-year-old Maya Davidson, whose family heads from California to Paris for her father’s work as a scientist and to fulfill her mother’s wish after a challenging battle with cancer. First-time author Anne Nesbet goes to town with elements of French history, including drawing upon two real scientists, Antoine Lavoisier, who was active in the French Revolution, and his apprentice, Antoine Fourcroy. Maya, who is not taken in by the ‘beautiful people’ at her school, led by a teen she calls ‘Dolphin’ (her mispronunciation of ‘Dauphin,’ a remnant of the old French monarchy), strikes up a friendship with Valko, a transplant from Bulgaria who’s always up for adventure. Maya’s gregarious five-year-old brother, James, leads her and Valko to all sorts of interesting people, including two feuding men named Henri Fourcroy–the one enslaved to the Cabinet and also his mesmerizing uncle–who turn out to be Maya’s relatives. Maya’s ‘invisible’ Cousin Louise holds less appeal for the teen–until Maya realizes that Louise is central to unlocking the mystery of the beautiful people who never seem to age. Nesbet explores the subtle distinctions between the ignored versus the invisible members of society, the price of beauty and immortality, and the sense of displacement both Maya and Valko experience. Valko compares himself to the Roman Bath ruins in a Parisian square: ‘the current Valko, the older Valko, and somewhere under everything, the ruins of Bulgaria!’ The two friends’ outsider status gives them a keener perception of the events going on around them. Readers will be swept along by the novel’s swift pace and enjoy the mystery’s unraveling with Maya and Valko as their companions.” – Jennifer M. Brown

Booklist: “When 13-year-old Maya’s family relocates to Paris, she finds herself facing expected and unexpected troubles. Given her father’s preoccupation with scientific study and her mother’s difficult cancer recovery, Maya knows that looking after her precocious little brother, James, will largely fall to her. She does not anticipate, however, being pulled towards the strange Cabinet of Earths—complete with an animate salamander handle—which is calling for a new keeper. Furthermore, when the behavior of her preternaturally young cousin goes from suspicious to menacing, Maya must match wits to rescue James and protect her family. In her debut novel, Nesbet has crafted a carefully imagined, magical world—one that is shrouded in mystery and keeps the reader engaged and guessing. As Maya puts all the pieces together, a fuller picture emerges; indeed, the more Maya understands and masters the various forces at play, the better the reader will appreciate her emotional growth. With imaginative alchemy, compelling action, and sensitive characterizations, this novel will undoubtedly win over fantasy fans.” — Thom Barthelmess