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300 pages, ebook
Published April 17, 2018
‘Whatever happened on the island, there is no magic here, in twentieth century London.’
‘There was for a while,’ Rowan said and Tilda’s heart sank. [loc. 188]
A generation after the fall of Spellhaven (see Spellhaven for details), the refugees from that realm, and their English families, are still coming to terms with a very different world. Tilda Gray is the widow of a man from Spellhaven: she admits that if she had really listened to Alick's stories, really believed in the magic, she would never have married him. She doesn't give much credence to the stories her sister-in-law, Rowan, tells her, and she doesn't believe that her sons' schoolmate Hugo is haunted by actual ghosts. When Hugo's guardian, his uncle Stephen Cole, asks for help, though, Tilda agrees to do what she can. Unfortunately, this means seeking out Spellhaven's exiles, and discovering that Spellhaven wasn't the only place where spirits dwelt.
I didn't enjoy this as much as Spellhaven, perhaps because it's wholly set in the mundane world -- though 'mundane' may be the wrong word, since there is plenty of magic spilt over from the lost realm, and some intrinsincally English magic too. I wasn't wholly convinced by Hugo's sketchy account of how he acquired his ghosts (‘It was in a book. A grown-up book about primitive tribes. I didn’t think it would work nowadays, though.’) or by Tilda's stubborn refusal, in the face of mounting evidence, to believe that her husband's family came from a magical realm. The novel switches between Tilda's story and that of the three boys -- the latter narrative reminded me, at times, of Diana Wynne Jones -- which I sometimes found frustrating: Tilda's story has a very different ambience to the boys' adventures.
Ghosts and Exiles felt ... shimmery, allusive: the magical elements were seldom clearly seen, perhaps because we were experiencing them through Tilda's perspective. I liked the sense that a whole new story was beginning, a story about Nick (the elder son, his father's heir) and about Stephen and Tilda, and about how Hugo finds shelter. Would be happy to read more set in this world ...