Book name: Gwendy’s Magic Feather
Author: Richard Chizmar
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Genre: Fantasy, horror
Publication Date: 2019
When I saw the ‘Gwendy’ in Gwendy’s Magic Feather I knew we would be travelling back to Castle Rock, Maine in the company of Richard Chizmar and Stephen King, (who co-authored the prequel, Gwendy’s Button Box).
The original was set in 1974, so I was intrigued about what had happened to Gwendy since she last used her button box. When Gwendy’s Magic Feather opens it’s the run up to Christmas 1999. Everyone is worrying themselves to death about Y2K. Remember that?
Gwendy is now 37. After a successful career in advertising and writing she’s been elected to congress as a Democrat and represents her home town. Her husband is away on business so she returns to Castle Rock to spend the festive season with her parents. Her mother is in remission from cancer.
Gwendy is worried about her husband’s safety as a photojournalist in Timor. Castle Rock is reeling from the disappearance of two teenage girls, and Gwendy keeps abreast of the investigation and helps search for the missing girls.
Just before Gwendy flies back to Castle Rock for the holidays she finds a silver dollar in her office. The button box then turns up after all these years.
When she was a child, Gwendy was given the button box by a stranger. She discovered that pressing the buttons could make good and bad things happen. It seemed to be able to read her mind, and the levers on the side dispensed chocolate treats with all manner of hidden powers.
Gwendy takes the button box back to Castle Rock and hides it in her safe. She’s never told anyone of its existence and intends to keep it that way.
Gwendy’s Magic Feather portrays the concern that Gwendy feels for her mother and husband alongside the wider anxiety in Castle Rock about the fate of the missing girls. A third girl goes missing in the run up to New Year. The button box is capable of doing good, though. With three girls abducted and only a few of their teeth left behind Gwendy and the police department need all the help they can get to track down the killer.
Gwendy’s Magic Feather is whimsical rather than frightening. As I read it, I felt that I was reading a fantasy book as much as a horror one. The disappearance of the girls is peripheral to the story and is really there to provide a climax to the book where Gwendy’s button box can do some good outside her family. There are passing mentions of politics, but this is really a book about family, home town and memories.
One of Richard Chizmar’s main themes is whether Gwendy’s success comes from within or is bestowed upon her by the button box.
The sequel is solely his work, but the foreword by Stephen King shows the extent to which Chizmar had his co-author’s blessing in returning to their shared project.
I believed in Gwendy. She was intelligent, articulate and incredibly hard working. I had no difficulty in deciding for myself that her success in life since we saw her last in Gwendy’s Button Box was down to her own attributes and that she deserved to take the credit.
This was compatible with the notion that the button box could do good by helping her mother’s cancer go away and tracking down a serial killer.
Castle Rock, Maine is just that kind of world and it’s like life anywhere. Sometimes we catch a lucky break we can’t really explain; the rest of the time it’s down to hard work and focus.
Gwendy’s Magic Feather by Richard Chizmar was a delightful work of fantasy, and I enjoyed every moment of it.
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