Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.”
I was SO excited to get my hands on this book after reading and loving Claire Legrand’s debut, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and it didn’t disappoint, if anything it actually exceeded my expectation.
The Year of Shadows follows Olivia. Her mums left her dad, her dad is more focused on the Orchestra then her and she has just had to move to said Orchestra. Basically, her life has fallen apart. Olivia at the beginning of the book is broken. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong has gone wrong and she has shut herself off from everyone except her Grandmother. I loved Olivia. I didn’t think Claire could top the perfectionist and know it all Victoria but yet again she has created a multi layered character that is SO original for a MG lead. Olivia is going through problems that real eleven and twelve year olds go through, (apart from the ghosts!) she is worried about the economy and her parents splitting up has had a huge effect on her. Almost as soon as I started reading I got a sense of her frustration and anger – especially towards her dad.
That moves us on neatly to reason two of why this book is amazing. The Maestro could have being a straight up, neglectful, horrible man who is a bad father to Olivia. And in some ways he is. But through the course of the book we get flickers of why he is the way he is and also moments where he attempts to reach out to Olivia. Although sometimes I was SO mad at the things that the Maestro had done to Olivia I could also empathise with him. Again, the Maestro is a complicated character – Claire is so good at bringing them to life.
I don’t want to say to much about the ghosts (I don’t want to give anything away) but I love the way they are described (seriously, its beautiful). I loved the idea of why and how they can’t move on. Also, Claire once again showed her genius at been able to create and bring to life the most utterly creepy characters – the shades. They literally made my skin crawl for most of the book.
Emerson Hall itself seems a perfect place for ghosts – I love the idea of a run down concert hall and I just cannot get it out of my mind. I also loved the scenes in Olivia’s school – they were beautifully done and I loved how Olivia and Henrys friendship developed there.
Basically, I really really loved this book. I am a addict of well written, creepy, middle grade fantasy and this book ticks all those boxes. I loved Olivia and the other characters, the writing was absolutely beautiful and the plot was well paced, had tension in all the write places and made me want to read on till the early hours.
I especially loved all the music references. The passion that the author has for music really shone through and some of the prose about the music’s effect on Olivia really caught me – it was breath-taking.
I have to say though, and I am sure many will agree with me, the absolute best thing about this brilliant book was Igor the cat. Sarcastic, witty and always at Olivia’s side he made me laugh out loud. And anyway, what is a book without a cat?
My feelings about this book are simple, its amazing and please read it and get this talented author the recognition she deserves. And so, to end this review and because I thought it was somewhat appropriate (and funny) here’s a cat gif: