NEVERTELL, by Katharine Orton, Walker Books US, April 14, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 9-12)
Katharine Orton’s Nevertell is a magical tale set in the Siberian cold.
Twelve-year-old Lina has never known freedom. Born in a Stalinist labor camp, she has spent her life under guard. There, hunger and cruelty are the norm. So when given the chance to escape, Lina takes it. She knows if she can reach her grandmother in Moscow, then everything will work out.
With the help of her best friend, Bogdan, Lina make their way into the frigid land. They haven’t gone very far, though, before catching the eye of a vengeful witch. The witch is somehow drawn to Lina and won’t let her go without a fight.
With the witch on her tail, Lina will have to dig deep if she and Bogdan are to survive.
Nevertell is an engrossing read that is unlike any tale I’ve come across. While there are moments reminiscent of The Snow Queen, it diverges so much that the two are not truly comparable.
Author Katharine Orton is a skilled scene builder, transporting readers to the barren Siberian landscape. You feel the cold, you hear the howling wolves, you struggle to see through the mist.
Lina and Bogdan are characters you want to root for, and the witch is nuanced with just the right mix of mystery and creepiness.
Nevertell is a fairly fast-moving novel that has an air of a ghost story mixed with magical realism.
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