Author: J.L. McCreedy
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Penelope Pipp Publishing
Recommended Age: 10+
Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
The average ten-year-old girl seldom travels far from home. She doesn’t worry about being kidnapped by witches or imprisoned in medieval castles where children meet their unspeakable demise. She rarely gives thought to curses, potions and magic. She certainly isn’t concerned about risking life and limb to decipher ancient rites and lost treasures….
But Liberty Frye is about to discover that she is not just an average girl.
When a cryptic note from long-lost relatives arrives, the news it brings flips Libby’s small-town existence upside down. Soon, she finds herself lured to a foreign land where mystery, spells and the dark stuff of fairy tales await. It’s up to Libby to unravel the sinister plot that brought her there in the first place, but in so doing, she’ll uncover a shocking secret that will change her life forever … if she survives the challenge.
My Thoughts: Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen is a fantastical adventure featuring magic, mystery, and some very quirky characters. We meet Liberty Frye for the first time as she is sitting up in a tree reading an old, worn copy of the Grimm Fairy Tales – which we learn hides a dark secret. The Fryes are a very strange and reclusive family, not really knowing anyone in the town aside from Libby’s great-uncle, “Uncle Frank” who is even more reclusive.
All is well until a yellow envelope containing a mysterious letter is dropped at the Frye’s doorstep by a large raven. Libby does not know the contents of the letter, but a chain of events has now been set in motion. The Fryes travel to Germany to visit Libby’s grandmother who appears to have ulterior motives for luring the family to their homeland. Soon enough, her parents disappear and an evil woman (and her most unusual “henchmen”) kidnap Libby and reveal the secret that Libby’s parents have been hiding from her. She is “witch” nobility; that is, a descendent of the most powerful coven of witches – the coven of Hessen – and her aunt wants to have her powers.
It is up to the most unlikely of heroes, Uncle Frank, the disabled inventor; Sal, Uncle Frank’s old air force buddy; Ginny, Libby’s new and loyal friend; and Buttercup, Libby’s brave pet goose to save her before it’s too late.
Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen is a rollicking adventure spanning two continents and featuring the impressive title character who begins as an ordinary 10-year-old and who transforms into a confident girl who embraces her new identity as a powerful witch. But the best part of the story is the collection of quirky characters beginning with Uncle Frank who, despite being in a wheelchair, plays a critical role in protecting Libby. His old air force buddy, Sal makes a splash as he enters the story – literally flying in and landing wearing his hospital gown as he escapes from a care facility. Ginny is Libby’s best friend and she demonstrates her loyalty through her willingness to fly across the ocean, brave the elements, and face some heinous villains. And then there’s Buttercup, the goose. Let’s just say that this special pet also plays an important role in the story.
And those are just the good guys. Then, there are all the villains, reminiscent of the ones found in the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. There is the evil grandmother who lures Libby’s family to Germany in order for the even greater villain, Zelna (who has a surprise relationship with the group) to put her dastardly plan into action. Zelna reminds me of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty or the evil queen from Snow White or the evil stepmother from Cinderella (*ahem* all Brothers Grimm stories!) She is one nasty villain!
The plotline itself weaves a mystery about who Liberty Frye really is; why her parents escaped Germany and moved to America; what secret the vintage Brothers Grimm book holds; and what the evil Zelna is really after. There are so many plot twists and turns that I could only guess at the final outcome. That being said, there were certain parts of the story that I felt were quite complex for younger tweens to follow so I would recommend the book to older tweens. I did love the comic relief peppered throughout the text because there are definitely some dark moments as well.
I wanted to make mention of two things concerning issues I had with the book. First, there are some gruesome parts (not many, but a few). For example, Libby learns that Zelna stays young by eating children. Ok, that is very Grimm-like. The way she discovers it is by finding the disembodied head of a boy in a cauldron. Yeesh! I did not want that image in my head (and I’ve read the original Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales – apparently before I had children).
Second, I wish there had been more foreshadowing of Libby’s powers earlier in the story. Once Libby discovers she is a witch, she begins to reflect back on unusual things that had happened in the past (e.g., a Bunsen burner turning off by itself) that she can now attribute to her powers. It felt temporally out of order to have these “unusual incidents” revealed for the first time as flashbacks. I’m not even sure that the flashbacks are necessary in the story, but perhaps young readers would appreciate examples of how Libby demonstrated her powers.
My Bottom Line: Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen is filled with magic, adventure, and quirky characters. We have the brave title character, Libby, whose parents have been protecting her from the truth; Libby’s friends and family who loyally stand by her; and a collection of nasty villains seeking to claim her powers. This book is strong on character development and rich in story with a plot filled with delicious twists and turns. Because of the complexity of the plot and the inclusion of some gruesome parts, I recommend this book to older tweens and teens aged 10 years and older.
More Buzz About the Book
“As a retired teacher I can see the merits of having students in Junior High do a book report on this novel. It stresses the value of loyalty to one’s friends, cautions about succumbing to evil influences, and teaches the importance of respecting ones elders. It is a great read for all ages.” ~ 5 Star Review, Tomas B., Amazon
“Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen is a delightful, fantastical tale of a young girl with a destiny far beyond even her active imagination. The story is involving, the characters are well developed and believable, and the topics that surface are varied and meaningful. The narrative is concise and fast-paced, giving the book a sense of urgency and causing the reader to not want to put the book down. The language is cinematic and would lend itself nicely to a script treatment; and I mean that in a good way. This book would easily be appropriate for Middle School readers and up, though younger readers with larger vocabularies will enjoy it immensely. There is a playfulness to the book and a sense of adventure, yet it deals with weighty matters of family, loyalty and discovery of self. There are moments that are suspenseful and a few scary bits that might disturb younger readers but will be favorite passages for the tweens.” ~ 5 Star Review, Jimm B., Amazon
“I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen was an enchanting story that kept me going from start to finish. It’s a quick read, and the story develops fast enough to keep readers of all sorts engaged. It also encourages positive principles of loyalty and friendship in addition to generous sprinklings of humor throughout. The characters were all thoughtfully created and each adds a necessary ingredient to the story. Furthermore, as a parent, I was glad to see the author incorporate the fanciful and mysterious trappings of fairy tales and such without getting too “dark” with the subject matter. Makes it an enjoyable book a wide range of audiences.” ~ 5 Star Review, Rebecca, Amazon
About The Author: J.L. McCreedy
J.L. McCreedy spent over a year living in Rodenbach, Germany, in the State of Hessen, while preparing the original draft of Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen.
She first learned a love of writing (and developed an incurable condition of wanderlust) while growing up in Southeast Asia as the child of missionaries. She is now an attorney who writes and consults for charitable organizations. And for fun, whenever possible, she drags her splendid husband across the globe on ill-planned, shoestring adventures.
She currently lives in a cute, crumbling apartment in Tianjin, China with her husband, a pet gecko and a struggling assortment of potted plants.
* Giveaway *
Prize: There will be one winner who will receive a copy of Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen (print or Kindle version for the US & Canada; Kindle for international winners) + a $10 Amazon gift card (or PayPal cash).
Contest runs: December 17th, 2013 to January 3rd, 11:59 pm, 2014
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.L. McCreedy and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.
* I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own. The author contacted us to participate in our Book Promotion Program where we will tweet and share information about this book, the author, and the giveaway.*