When Beth and her family move into a run-down house, she expects her greatest challenge to be leaving behind her old friends and trying to fit in at a new school. Instead, she discovers a magical secret in the house’s overgrown garden, leading to her making some unexpected new friends and a cultural revival for the garden’s oldest inhabitants.
The Solstice Conspiracy is a fantasy novel for young readers that breathes new life into the old idea of fairies living at the bottom of the garden. Although it draws a lot from the tradition, it is firmly placed in the present, meaning that readers will be better able to identify with the challenges faced by the protagonist, Beth, and her brother, Chris. Beth, in particular, finds it difficult to make friends at her new school, and also struggles with a family who still views her as a child, despite her feeling as though she is becoming quite grown up.
Beth herself is a very likeable protagonist. Caught between life stages, she occasionally experiences frustration, but never comes across as being whiny or petulant. She is generally kind and empathetic, but will stand up for herself when necessary, meaning that she never becomes annoyingly ‘good’. Chris, as seen through his sisters eyes, can occasionally be a little less sympathetic, but he experiences growth as the book progresses and his character is elevated through the changes in his and Beth’s relationship.
The fairies, imps and other magical beings within the novel will be familiar to readers of Enid Blyton and other masters of the genre. Of the individual characters, Maeve is the most memorable, and her personal story provides a strong dramatic counter to the good deeds being carried out by the children.
While The Solstice Conspiracy is a fun story that should prove engaging to young readers, I would have liked to see the situations that Rawn introduces being expanded upon a little more, to truly carve a niche within the genre. Several times, the reader is presented with the possibility of danger, only for it to prove easily overcome. In particular, I felt that the climax of the book moved a little too swiftly – so much so that I became confused due to the suddenness of certain events. Of course, brevity is the key when it comes to junior fiction, so there is an understandable struggle to balance content and length.
The Solstice Conspiracy was introduced to me as a novel for young adults, but I would personally recommend it for a younger audience. The plot and issues faced, along with the age of the protagonist, will possibly lack appeal for teenage readers – especially those who like their fantasy in the form of paranormal romance! As a junior fiction offering, however, I think it hits its mark perfectly, and primary school-aged children should find a lot to like in Rawn’s novel.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)