Title: The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars (Kingdoms & Empires #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Published: November 2018
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Middle Grade
RRP: $22.99 AUD
I received a copy of The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
An enchanting and whimsical spell-filled fantasy novel from Jaclyn Moriarty, the highly-acclaimed author of The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and the award-winning author of Feeling Sorry for Celia and A Corner of White, suitable for readers who loved A Most Magical Girl
That’s what bothered me most.
This is way ahead in the story, though. A lot happened before that.
The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli. Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost. Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war.
And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust onto the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.
Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a spellbinding tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and competitive athletics.
Last year I read The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty and absolutely loved it. I didn’t realise at the time that it would become the first book in a series (although in hindsight I probably should have suspected it would) because the world has so much scope.
Enter The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars, the second book in the Kingdom & Empires series. While it is the second book in the series, chronologically it takes before the events of Bronte Mettlestone, which took me a little while to piece together and once I figured that out, it became much easier for me to get into the story.
Set in the town of Spindrift, which is full of all sorts of characters – from pirates, Shadow Mages and every day humans – we are told the story from two perspectives: Finlay, a young boy who lives in the local orphanage, and Honey Bee, a young girl who attends a prestigious boarding school in town. The two characters are ‘enemies’ as the orphanage and boarding school go head-to-head at the local athletics competition and, later, in a series of escalating pranks played upon the two schools.
However, the two find they need to join forces when local children begin to go missing, presumed taken by the Whispering Kingdom when the Whispering Wars break out. Caught in the wake of the war, Spindrift finds itself stuck between two rivals and a host of magical problems that could spell the end of the town.
I admit that Whispering Wars took me a lot longer to get into than Bronte Mettlestone – it wasn’t until I has about halfway through the book that I was truly invested in the story and the two main characters, who spent the first half of the book bickering at one another across their respective POV chapters. There was probably too much time spent on the ongoing prank war between the orphanage and the boarding school – time that could have better been spent on the mystery and adventure portion of the story which was fantastic. In many ways the first half of the book felt really information heavy, and when we finally got to the action, it seemed to be resolved rather quickly.
That said, I thought it was an interesting choice having the alternating chapters from Finlay and Honey Bee – it was good, because we saw two very distinctive personalities and perspectives, and a lot of character growth as the two learned to trust one another. I also liked the reveal of why they had alternating chapters and why they were ‘talking’ to one another across the chapters (although it took a long time for that to be explained).
I love the world of Spindrift and the characters and kingdoms that have been expanded on since Bronte Mettlestone, as well as the character cameos that appear throughout the book. There’s lots of nods to the first book, without it being overly necessary for you to have read it (although I would recommend it).
Overall, Whispering Wars was a great middle-grade fantasy read, with wonderful characters and interesting locations. It is a long read, so be prepared to settle in with a cup of tea and immerse yourself in a magical world.