I received a review copy as part of the tour in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Historical Age Range: MG Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: Anti-foreigner (French), anti-Catholic sentiment
London, 1666. After the sudden death of her father, thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother must take over THE WHITE PHOENIX – the family bookshop in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral. But England is at war with France and dire prophecies abound. As rumours of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice, blackmail and mob violence to protect the bookshop she loves.
When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she now save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have?
CAN THE WHITE PHOENIX RISE FROM THE ASHES?
About the Author
Catherine Randall was brought up in Shropshire but has lived in London since graduating from St Catherine’s College, Oxford with a degree in Modern History. Catherine worked as an editor in book publishing before taking a break to bring up her family. She took a Master’s in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton, writing a novella for teens as part of her dissertation. Now living in southwest London, she is known in her local area as the writer of two history plays (The Teddington Review and Letters from the Front) performed in 2017 and 2018.
As a result of her research for The White Phoenix, Catherine takes
workshops about the Great Fire of London into primary schools. She is
passionate about encouraging reading and volunteers with the charity Prisoners’ Reading Groups. She is currently working on her second novel.
Find Catherine on Twitter.
It’s been a very long time since I read MG Historical, despite how many I devoured when I was in the target market, but THE WHITE PHOENIX reminded me why I loved them so much.
This is an addictive historical middle grade set between plague and fire, as anti-foreigner, anti-Catholic feeling rises in 1666 London. I devoured this in one sitting – and, honestly, my only complaint would be that it’s so short (200 pages). I wanted more time alongside Lizzie!
There is such an atmosphere of fear in this book. From the death of her father and Lizzie’s fight to save her shop from “well-meaning” men who have an eye on the business (that section made me SOO angry at the men – yay for a good antagonist, I guess!), to the wave of anti-French sentiment wracking the city in the wake of war, there is a claustrophobic sense of people closing ranks against “the other”. The fears over plague hit really hard given the situation, but I found that really cathartic, to see others tackling it and not letting it stop them.
The tension and fear is done so well, making me turn the pages desperately to see what happens next. The situation is exploited by neighbours to hurt The White Phoenix, which pulls out anger on top of the frantic need for the pressure to stop building. This all feeds into the Great Fire of London, a panicked section of the book, full of danger and heartbreak.
Catherine Randall’s research into 1666 England is so clear in the little details of book binding or fashions. It’s these subtle references that help bring the world to life. Rather than overpowering the story with Historical Detail, it grounds the story, striking a balance between story and world.
I’m excited to see what Catherine Randall writes next!