13 Secrets, by Michelle Harrison

13 Secrets, by Michelle Harrison (Little, Brown, June 2012, middle grade/YA) , is the third book of a series, and therefore a tad hard to review--for those who haven't read the earlier books, one wants to convey a general idea of the series; for those who have, one wants to discuss how well the current book rounds thing off. I shall do my best to do both.

But first, from the town records of Whitehaven, in the Lake District, a List of Deaths taken from the Parish of Lamplugh from Janry ye 1, 1658 to Janye ye 1, 1663 (via The Gaurdian)

* Took cold sleeping at church: 11
* Frighted to death by Fairies: 4
* Died of a fright in a Exercise of ye traind bands: 1
* Mrs Lamplugh's cordial water: 2
* Bewitched: 7

I am starting off with this because the world in which Red, the central character of 13 Secrets, and her family and friends live is one in which causes 2 and 5 are alive and well. Red might want to live a peaceful life in the home of Tanya's grandmother, the trauma of her past behind her. But this peaceful, rural bit of England isn't actually peaceful--the fairies are, as it were, restless. Including one who wants revenge on Red very badly indeed.

And not only is Red in mortal danger herself, but the ragtag, gifted, crazy, and fey people with whom she worked in the past (a changling rescue group) still need her. Even more so when one by one, strange fates befall them, until of the original thirteen, only a few are left.

The suspense grows, and though the action takes place in our own world, the magic of the fairy realm is close at hand. The result is a story fraught with ominous tension, as Red and her allies, including Tanya and Fabian (who, after taking the lead in book one, are now secondary to Red's more complex character), struggle to defend the manor house and those sheltering within it from a fate much worse than Mrs Lamplugh's cordial water (sorry; couldn't resist that).

(The next paragraph has several run on descriptions of various genres. I apologize in advance.)

But seriously, for those who like scary fantasy suspense with lots of mystery and considerable death (though mostly it's just finding dead bodies), of a non-urban fantasy paranormal romance kind, suitable for younger readers (eleven on up), this series is what I'd recommend. When you start the first book, 13 Treasures, you think you're getting a girl with magical fairy friendships in a house with lots of wholesome secrets type story (which the cover also suggests). You aren't. In some parts, this series almost verges on horror (with bits more likely to stick disturbingly in the mind than standard middle grade fantasy violence, so be warned).

So some of us were a bit disappointed, and had to swallow hard to appreciate the series for what it is--something where magic can take forms that are dark, and dank, and sharp, and people do twisty things. Harrison writes with a keen eye for detail, and her descriptions are vivid; she pulls her magic off very well indeed.

But I do have one minor, but niggling, issue with the series. The titular 13 Treasures of book 1 are a metaphorical part of this third book, but never come into their own as a pointful part of the whole story. Everything could have happened without them, and that was disappointing. (Please let me know if I am totally wrong here--it happens).

Final self-centered conclusion: Not a series for me, in particular
Final altruistic conclusion: One I think would make an excellent choice for the reader of youthful horror who also is a fantasy fan, or the reader who doesn't like rainbow fairies, but who does like dark secrets.

Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. I liked the first book, but see your points. This series has been much more popular than I thought it would be, so I will probably buy the third book.

    1. I think you have a much grearter tolerance for the darker side than I do! Judging from a quick look at my state's library system, it's a popular series here too--there are quite a few holds on this one.

  2. I read the first one and was unimpressed. A lot of people do seem to love them, though.

    1. i love them and im a teen in year 9

  3. i love all the books


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