Date: 9th June 2015
Format: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken to nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming. Amy's only friend and ally is the sparkling heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated. But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift.
A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life changing discovering awaits... if only she can unlock the secret.
Amy Snow by Tracy Rees is a debut novel that enthralled me from start to finish. It is set in England in early Victorian times, and while in one sense it merely covers a matter of months, it also goes back in time, so that we the reader are slowly fed all the details. This allows the mystery of the story to unfurl.
Aurelia Vennaway when she is a young girl of eight, discovers a baby blue with cold in the snow, yet still alive. And so begins the life of Amy Snow. Where she came from, who she is nobody seems to know - or at any rate are not prepared to reveal. Apart from the prologue and epiplogue the story is recounted by Amy. She grew up in the Vennaway home, cared for by the cook and young gardener, despised by Lady Vennaway and forbidden to be seen anywhere by the family. Amy's life is cold and lonely. However Aurelia befriends her and as they both grow they bond and grow in friendship and love. When Aurelia dies Amy is cast out, a young woman of about seventeen years thrust out into a world she is unprepared for.
Yet Amy is not totally abandoned, even in death Aurelia reaches out to Amy through letters that are to guide her along a journey of self discovery and the revelation of secrets that surprise. The letters are not straight forward, some of them are like a cryptic crossword that Amy must break the code of so that she can take the next step in the quest. At times this aggravates her, she almost gives up annoyed with Aurelia, yet she perseveres to the end.
Along the way she meets all kinds of characters, mostly kind and compassionate and a few not so much. All are colourful and add vitality and interesting detail to the story. As Amy meets each one, her heart is warmed with what has been so lacking in her life so far, she is also challenged by some of those she meets and learns to stand on her own two feet and speak her mind. All the while she struggles with who she is, who controls her and what are her own choices along the way.
I really enjoyed this book, I liked Amy and felt for her in so many ways. I was delighted with her spirit of loyalty and willingness to go on an adventure that she did not know where it would finally end and how. I loved how the book underlined certain values that the main characters were insistent about and that they based their choices on.
Tracy Rees has written a well crafted and intriguing mystery, with characters that will long endure in my memory. A big thumbs up for her first published book - I certainly hope she has another as equally readable in the wings.
Read a little about Tracey Rees and the competition she won with Richard and Judy, which led to this book being chosen and published.