The Great Fox Illusion by Justyn Edwards

Cover art by Flavia Sorrentino

Over the last two years, since I started reviewing titles and keeping my little blog, I have gone from reading only the titles that I have chosen to read – either from my local independent bookshop, or from Waterstones when I’ve been further abroad – to reading almost exclusively titles that have been recommended to me by friends on Twitter. This title, due to be published on April 7th, is one which I have seen several times in my feed, most notably, perhaps, when it was read by my favourite children’s author who declared it to be ‘great fun’ and ‘brilliantly magical’.

With that as a recommendation, I added it to my list and was delighted when I spotted it had been added to Net Galley and immediately downloaded it, without really knowing any more about it. Having now read it, I have to say that I would agree with those quotes and would add that this is also an inclusive read, highly engaging and one to which I am now very much hoping there will be at least a sequel, if not a full-blown series because I need to know how main character Flick’s adventures continue.

Her adventure starts in a queue of wannabe contestants for a new reality TV show – The Great Fox Hunt – which promises to be unlike any other. Here, those taking part will be trying to locate hidden tricks in the grand house of a recently deceased famous magician in a show hosted by another magician who Flick believes wants to get his hands on the late entertainer’s illusions. After registering at the entrance, Flick says goodbye to her mother and finds her way inside to where those wishing to take part are going to be whittled down.

Making it through to the final four, Flick is paired up with Charlie – who appears to have curiously grand plans for the two of them – in opposition to siblings Ruby and Harry, before entering the house proper for the contest to begin. Once inside, the children are shown to the library to find the first clue before being shown to where they will be staying and being allowed to explore on their own under the watchful eyes of the many cameras installed in the building.

With the four of them having very different reasons for wanting to win, the competition starts and Flick does all she can to make the most of being paired with Charlie whose modus operandi is quite different to her own. Can the two of them solve the clues they find ahead of Ruby and Harry and more importantly who will win the big prize?

Flick and Charlie are a great pair of characters. Both self-reliant and different from those around them, neither of them is used to having to work with someone else but they soon realise that each of them complements the other perfectly and together they make a great team against Ruby and Harry, who are used to one another’s ways and come as a ready made team. Throughout the book, the siblings are often extremely unkind to Flick and Charlie and I’m sure I won’t be the only reader who finds themselves getting really quite cross with their prejudice and inability to accept their opponents, in the most unsporting of ways at times.

When magic creeps into the description of a book, it is usually in the context of witches, fairies or suchlike but here it refers to the art of illusion – something that many of us find fascinating. There can be very few people who at some point have not found themselves puzzling over how a trick has been performed and here, when clear logical explanations are given as to what is happening, it is hard not to be impressed by the skills of those carrying out the deceptions. That’s not to say that any of the tricks explained in the book will be spoiled by the reader finding out how they are done, rather it will add another element to them when they are reencountered, with the individual trying to be more observant in the hopes of working things out for themselves.

This really is a captivating read. Most of the chapters are quite short, which makes it all too easy to say just one more – as I did – until before you know it, the book is finished. Although the story ends quite neatly – like me, I imagine the vast majority of readers will want to know what happens next to Flick and Charlie. Perfect for Year 4 upwards, this would make a great class read or shared bedtime story and is one which adults will enjoy just as much as their young charges. I loved it and am hugely grateful to publisher Walker Books and Net Galley for my virtual advance read. The Great Fox Illusion publishes on April 7th.

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