Narrator: Erin Spencer
Published by MacMillan Audio
Published on 2 January 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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Award winning German author Mechthild Gläser presents The Forgotten Book - her first YA audiobook published in English. This whimsical story unfolds in the quaint atmosphere of an ivy-clad boarding school, where books are magical objects and Jane Austen reigns supreme.
Emma is used to things going her way. Her father is headmaster of her prestigious boarding school, her friends take her advice as gospel, and she's convinced that a relationship with her long-time crush is on the horizon. As it turns out, Emma hasn't seen anything yet. When she finds an old book in an abandoned library, things really start going Emma's way: anything she writes in the book comes true.
But the power of the book is not without consequences, and Emma soon realizes that she isn't the only one who knows about it. Someone is determined to take it from her - and they'll stop at nothing to succeed.
A new boy in school - the arrogant, aloof, and irritatingly handsome Darcy de Winter - becomes Emma's unlikely ally as secrets are revealed and danger creeps ever closer.
With a secondary character named Darcy De Winter, who is a rich snobby boy with a sister named Gina and who immediately dislikes our heroine, Emma, you would think that this book has something to do with a Pride and Prejudice retelling, right? Especially since the blurb says “Jane Austen reigns supreme” at the boarding school.
But no. Because of this reference, and the name choices, I really thought this would be a much closer retelling of Pride and Prejudice than it actually was. So if you’re expecting a P&P retelling, stop right there. It’s not. It has elements of it, and it’s certainly influenced by it, and if you love the love story between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy (or even Jane and Bingley, which have their respective characters as well, and whose romance I also enjoyed), then you’ll probably like this enemies-to-lovers romance as well – but it is, in my opinion, not a ‘retelling’.
The supporting characters, although some of them vaguely inspired by P&P characters (but not all of them, which I was disappointed at, when Charlotte and Mr Collins didn’t show up, and neither did Caroline, whose inclusion in this P&P-inspired story would have been highly entertaining) were entertaining. Darcy broods about as any Byronic hero, and watching him and Emma come to terms with their feelings was fun. It felt natural and unrushed, moving through the stages of friendship. The realisation may have been sudden, but the build up was not, and who can blame a 16 year old girl for realising very suddenly that maybe she has feelings for someone she thought she hated?
Now that that is out of the way, I am able to mention that false retelling aside, this was a really wonderful book. I thought the main aspect of a magical book where what you write in it comes true was really original, and blended well with the other Austen-inspired storylines. I loved Emma as a character: her curiosity, determinism, and drive, which was occasionally pushed aside in favour of her choosing to make really dumb – but entertaining – decisions. She’s 16, so she’s allowed to make mistakes. The setting was gorgeous – a German castle turned into a boarding school, with creepy catacombs and hidden entrances. The writing itself was really lovely, and that’s gotta be a bonus because this was translated from the original German. The narration was good as well, and I enjoyed listening to Erin Spencer deliver the story.
I feel like this is a bit of a hidden gem, maybe a somewhat underrated book because it’s not originally written in English or set in the UK or US. At the time of writing it has less than 1200 ratings on Goodreads, and less than 300 reviews. But it’s a very solid YA fantasy, with twists I enjoyed, a lovely story that was well written and strongly narrated, and a bonus that it’s set in a non-English speaking country with loads of European diversity.