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Reviewed by Sarah Scheele for Readers' Favorite
Esme’s Gift is the second book in the Esme Trilogy by Elizabeth Foster. Fifteen-year-old Esme now knows her mother, Ariane, is alive, locked in sleep in the magical, water-imbued land of Aeolia. When her father refuses to believe anything she says, Esme plunges back into Aeolia to help her mother on her own. Ariane’s deep sleep is getting worse because her powers were tampered with by the sinister Nathan Mare. Esme’s special Gift lets her use water to see the past and there’s a lost recipe from a previous Keeper, Thomas Agapios, that could save her mother’s life. Along with loyal friends Daniel and Lillian, she goes on a quest to find ingredients for the missing medicine. But who is this new boy to whom she has an inexplicable aversion? And could an ill-natured old professor’s essay assignment put her on the trail of a forgotten evil enchanter?
Esme’s Gift explores a grittier, darker, and at times more beautiful Aeolia. Elizabeth Foster’s strong world-building cultivates a story that’s even more mysterious and layered than Esme’s first swim into Aeolia. While a thriller element is woven into the fantasy plot in a way that kept me on the edge of my seat at times, where the book really stands out is in the characters. Upping the action a bit from the first book, Esme, Daniel, and Lillian take on a lot of personal growth tasks suitable to their ages, from majestic dragons to terrifying oracles, medical secrets, Aeolia’s violent history--and the ghosts who tell it--and the sometimes accident-prone development of their own special Gifts. Esme’s Gift captures the angst, growing pains, and courage of adolescents while threading in some gentle moments of true friendship and affection. It’s a YA fantasy story about crossing into another world and visualizes that world vividly.