Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
Release date: September 29th 2011.
Hardcover, 320 pages.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Jen.
We meet Liesl the night after the day her young father has died. That same day she is visited by a ghost, Po, an eight year old boy who lives on the other side, the territory between life and death that runs parallel to the living world. Po has come to tell her that her father is stuck on the other side, and that she is the only one who can help him cross over. A couple of wooden boxes. Some ashes. Some magic dust. A ghost, its pet, and a boy who forgot to wear a hat in the cold. From these seemingly odd, random characters Oliver weaves the enchanting story of how, with the aid of Liesl, these elements come together over the course of one week to restore love and luster to a world gone grey and heartless.
I am going to have to say that Lauren Oliver’s enchanting ghost story Liesl & Po is one of the best books I have read this year. It is a timeless story about love and loss, good vs. evil. Oliver admits in the introduction that this story came from a dark place in her heart and helped her heal in the face of her own devastating loss. Although categorized as a middle grades novel, Liesl & Po is a story that will certainly appeal to a wide variety of readers. Especially those who love a good ghost story!
Will, the alchemist’s assistant, has made a horrible mistake! He was supposed to deliver The World’s Greatest Magic to the Lady Premier, thus making his boss, the Alchemist, a legitimate and world renowned scientist. Finally people would stop calling him a magician, the greatest of insults for a man of his talent and ability. Unfortunately, while Will was making a delivery to Mr. Gray, the town mortician, he accidentally exchanged his box of important magic for the remains of a Mr. Morbower. Once Will’s honest mistake was revealed he had no choice but to run for his life!
At the same time Will was trudging all over town to run his bosses errands Liesl Morbower’s father had been dead for three days. Liesl never even got to say goodbye, as she has been locked in the attic ever since her father took ill thirteen months before. Her stepmother, Augusta, says it is because the world is a dangerous place, but Liesl has other ideas about why her stepmother might want to keep her locked away forever. Liesl’s hopes of ever leaving the attic are dim until a ghost named Po and it’s (as a ghost it does not remember if it was a boy or a girl) ghost pet Bundle bring her a message from her newly deceased father. He wants to go home. Immediately she knows that she must bring her fathers ashes to the willow tree to bury next to her mother. Then he can move from the Other Side to Beyond and finally rest in peace. Po & Bundle agree to help Liesl on her quest and so begins a treacherous journey that unites Liesl and Will as they are chased by those who believe that they have stolen The Greatest Magic in the World and will stop at nothing to get it back.
Although the themes in Liesl & Po are quite dark, the story itself is very uplifting. For every ounce of evil described there is a pound of good that ultimately prevails. The cast of characters is eclectic and colorful, despite the dreary setting (the sun itself has not been seen in 1,728 days), and they are woven together quite beautifully. Every character, no matter how minor, has a story and those stories are intertwined together throughout the plot. The suspense builds as Liesl and Will embark upon their journey where they are chased by both good and evil. The plot moves along swiftly and there is never a dull moment as each page reveals more secrets and truths. As a reader it was exciting to connect together all of the inferences and make predictions about what was going to happen next.
Once I started reading Liesl & Po I found myself unable to put it down. I became quite attached to the characters and absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. This is one of those rare books that makes you want to both cry and cheer when it comes to the end. The story is so charming and the characters so delightful, both good and bad, that it became very difficult to say goodbye.