Charlotte, Sally, Imogen, and Fenella are four sisters whose parents run a boarding school. They are ignored and neglected for the most part, so have learned to take care of themselves, and not always in the normal, polite kind of way. A ghost begins to haunt them, a ghost who knows she must be one of the four girls, but not which one. This ghost is somehow tied up with a goddess, Monigan, that Charlotte created years back, and she must figure out how to save herself from Monigan’s clutches.
I know that sounds strange, but that’s about the best I can do for summarizing this book without giving too much away. This was an interesting book. I get the impression that it’s disliked by a lot of DWJ fans, but I really enjoyed it. I suppose that’s probably because I grew up with two sisters and a brother, all of us very close. While we were not neglected, we certainly were strange and unusual, with a quirky sense of humor and an interesting dynamic between all four of us. I liked this book because the sisters were so perfect with each other. They loved and hated each other all at the same time. They showed their worst traits without worrying about judgement from the others, perfectly comfortable as family. They fought, and they comforted each other, and they stuck up for each other when they needed to. So many of the DWJ books I’ve read has focused on dysfunctional, horrid, rotten families (especially in Chrestomanci), so it was delightful to see the bond between these girls even in the midst of a neglectful situation.
As for the ghost story, I found it very intriguing. I thought it was well-crafted, with little hints given all along, and the wrap-up fit together perfectly. I wish I could have learned a little more about Julian and his part in the whole situation (being vague, avoiding spoilers), but I didn’t feel dissatisfied at all.
I do admit, it was a slow book to begin. For about the first 50-75 pages, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the book at all. The problem with seeing characters at their family-worst (ie, the kind of worst you only are around people you’re most comfortable with) is that you don’t initially like them. I’m not even sure I eventually liked them. But I did grow to understand them a bit better, and I enjoyed the bond that held them together. And after the slow beginning, the book did pick up, the story becoming more and more interesting, until I didn’t want to put it down. It went out powerfully, and was a lot of fun.