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Published: 5 Nov 2020

Paperback / softback, 336 pages

Recommended for age 9+

By Katharine Orton

Published by Walker Books Ltd

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An enchanting magical genre_fiction:adventure stories set in the wild moors of Dartmoor - the second middle-grade novel from the bestselling author of Nevertell. Through the glass, the magic is waiting... Nona and her uncle travel everywhere together, replacing stained-glass windows in war-torn buildings.

When a mysterious commission takes them to the lonely moors of Dartmoor, Nona discovers a wild and powerful magic which threatens everything. Can Nona protect those she loves - even if it means fighting darkness itself?A beautifully imaginative and rich genre_fiction:adventure stories about determination, courage and the power of love, set in the aftermath of World War Two. Perfect for fans of Abi Elphinstone, Sophie Anderson and Catherine Doyle.

Reviewed by Ellie Labbett

Glassheart is about orphaned Nona and stained-glass window maker Antoni found family within each other after World War Two. Living and working together brought them solace and security, having each lost their loved ones and their homes. But memories of her past and the terrors of The Blitz continue to surface for Nona. One part of her old home calls her back; a mysterious piece of glass that takes the shape of half a heart—an object that comforts and grounds her, but with powers that not even the eleven-year-old can understand. After the pair are summoned to restore the windows of a dilapidated church in Dartmoor, Nona notices an unexplained change in her adopted Uncle. A man once filled with warmth, suddenly entranced with a cold determination to work. But what has happened to Antoni, and why is the church so important? Soon Nona will learn that the human world is in grave danger, that magic and a great responsibility awaits her. Glassheart is a story of discovery and strength, where evil grows ever closer, and events from the past must be uncovered.

Nona’s journey is both beguiling and moving, steeped in magical realism and brought beautifully to life by Orton. The reader meets mysterious spirits, shapeshifting beings and evil creatures that manifest into the beholder’s inner fears. I loved the fact that such a fantastical adventure is set against the backdrop of a country recovering from war, experienced by a protagonist whose journey helps her to reconcile with the truth about their past. Nona is someone that all readers can resonate with, a character of contrasts who is portrayed as fragile and strong, uncertain and brave. Her inner development and the ways that other characters internalise different tragedies during war provides many layers of insight into human emotions. Perhaps this story prepares children to empathise with and support people working through personal struggles, to understand that grief and healing is not necessarily a linear process.

Glassheart will certainly enchant fans of fantasy in Year Five and Six, and the rich historical context makes this story a perfect cross-curricular text to use in school. Orton briefly touches upon the impact of World War Two upon Poland, Uncle Antoni’s home country. This could stimulate some rewarding historical inquiry into life after war for different people in the UK. Stained glass window artwork would be a lovely way to immerse readers in the world of the story, and could lead to some later geometry work too. Above all, this is a thoughtful and action-packed tale that lingers long after the final page.

I have recently completed my primary teaching degree and am passionate about the power of reading in changing lives. I am committed to championing diverse children’s literature and ensuring that every child feels valued and seen in the stories that they read.