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by Jenny Nimmo

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-531-30006-4
Publisher: Orchard

A neglected child's supernatural defenders turn against her in this brooding fantasy, set in modern Wales. Dinah's mother, Rosalie, has a new paramour: wealthy, ruthless Gomer Gwynne, who parks the two in a decrepit, overgrown mansion—just for a while, he says. Savvy beyond her 11 years, Dinah sees how much Gomer wants her out from underfoot, but a lifetime of being unwanted has toughened her, and the chance, however quixotic, of having a settled home prompts her to dig in her heels. She finds unexpected help on a visit to town; animated by her fierce wishes, some of the wild animals carved on a stone wall follow her home, to lurk menacingly in the shadows outside, harassing and attacking Gwynne at her command. When she tries to leave the house on Christmas Day, however, she suddenly finds them ranged against her. Nimmo (The Witches and the Singing Mice, 1993, etc.) tests her smart, strong-minded protagonist with a series of challenging situations, a powerful enemy, dangerous magical servants, and a trio of would-be allies: a battered old tomcat and two schoolmates able to see past her brusque exterior. The story has a dark, mysterious tone, but ends on a bright note: Gwynne's glib promise of marriage seems a thin prize for Rosalie, but it frees Dinah to find a home at last with a loving, just-discovered great-grandfather. A well-told story with unusually strong characters. (Fiction. 10-12)