Debut Review: The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison (SIMON AND SCHUSTER)

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The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison
Published by Simon and Schuster and Out Now

It is never a good sign when the novel you are reading feels like it’s dragging and it’s only 326 pages of quite large type. But that’s what happened with The Thirteen Treasures. I’ll admit now that I am not the target audience as it’s more a teenage fantasy than adult but it’s very much in the realm of my reading with two examples being Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom and Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher.

Tanya is sent to her grandmothers to give her mother a break as her mother can’t cope with her behaviour. But Tanya really isn’t to blame it’s the fairies. And at this point I really should have stopped reading. I’m going to try hard not to spoil it too much but I do need to explain a few things in order to say what I’m having problems with so with that in mind…

SPOILER WARNING!!!!!

You’ve got that haven’t you?

SPOILERS!

Right with that out of way.  I can say a bit more. When Tanya arrives are her grandmothers she discovers a mystery that no-one in the house speaks of. That isn’t a spoiler it’s in the blurb. As is Fabian, the caretaker’s son being tormented by the disappearance and the fact that his grandfather was the last person to see this person alive. The other thing is that Tanya can’t tell anyone about the fact that she can see fairies.

This leaves Tanya as quite a miserable character. Actually it’s not a bad premise. The trouble comes in after the story starts, how the characters interact and how the story builds. It’s a mental story rather than emotional. Characters like the grandmother and especially the mother fulfil their role without a sense of depth or connection to Tanya. This might be how teenage girls see their elders. So this might suit the audience but it niggled at me a lot.

The other thing that I had problem with is the way Tanya is left alone – and this is where the spoilers come in – you find out at the end that she has been in danger all along and the elders know something about the danger she is in. But the way they act and react throughout makes her being there illogical and why her mother is clueless to her abilities when she must have grown up in the same house with the same rumours can’t possibly be ignored.

There really are too many holes that can be poked here. The story felt like it was progressing by numbers and so long as everything fitted it would work. But it doesn’t, not when you look back over it. There are too many strange choices, interactions, lack of interventions and explanations that would have stopped the story in its tracks. And things that could have had more impact weren’t used like the bracelet and the compass.
I’m afraid to say that by the time I got the end I was glad to shut the covers.

Saying all that So Many Books, So Little Time liked it, and it won Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2009 so it might come down to audience but I really can’t give it credit due to the flaws that it contains.

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