Book name: The Story of the Amulet
Author: E Nesbit
Publisher: T Fisher Unwin
Format: Print, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Children’s books
Publication Date: 1906
Star Rating: 5/5
The Story of the Amulet is a children’s fantasy story published in 1906.
The book is the final one in the trilogy which began with Five Children and It and continued with The Phoenix and the Carpet.
In the first book, five children encounter a fantastical creature called the Psammead (pronounced ‘Sammy ad’).
The creature has magical powers and always seems to pop up unexpectedly when most needed.
The children are now four in number because their youngest sibling is in Madeira with the children’s mother, who is unwell.
Their father is working out in the Far East as a journalist, so the children are now staying with their old nurse near the British Museum.
Cyril, Robert, Anthea and Jane are distraught to think that their mother might not get well and their father may not return either. They are also worried for ‘the baby’.
They re-encounter the Psammead in a pet shop on Tottenham Court Road. It intrigued me to think of this busy road in central London ever having something as domestic as a pet shop!
The Psammead has been captured and is for sale. The children are determined to rescue him.
The resourceful creature has paved the way for an easy sale by repeatedly biting the shop owner.
Even so, it comes as a surprise for the children to discover that the money to buy him is right there in front of them! Nor does the creature seem too surprised to see them…
The Psammead explains that they must find the second half of an amulet in order to keep the absent members of their family safe.
The concept of their quest is reassuringly straightforward, even though there is still plenty of mystery about the Psammead’s magical powers, how the amulet works and of course where on earth they will be able to find its missing half.
The old nurse is blind to all the goings on.
The children are told that they must use the magic words to travel through time to find the second half of the amulet.
An elderly scholar who rents a room upstairs from the children’s old nurse provides unwitting assistance so that the words can be pronounced correctly.
Soon the children are on their way to the first of several trips back in time.
The fantasy elements were very clear in The Story of the Amulet. It is a quest epic, through a portal, with the Psammead representing either a part of the portal or an additional intrusion element into the real world of 1906 just as you prefer.
Once the mechanics are in place it becomes a time-travel story with fantastical elements in the form of the amulet and the Psammead.
The story was well paced and provided child readers with a glimpse into various points of history alongside the fantastical elements.
These were well done, and the tendency of the children to introduce themselves as coming from a land where the sun never set was only mildly uncomfortable to a modern reader as a reference to the British Empire.
It is impossible to read stories like this without quite a lot of sadness in my experience. The children’s innocence and belief in fantasy, magic and time travel are delightful. Their reliance upon their fantastical friend mirrors something that is common in childhood, only to vanish as we grow older.
The Edwardian period ended in 1910 and it is often referred to as a halcyon period in English history, a twilight before the emergence of a more brutal world from World War One onwards.
In just eight years, Cyril, Robert, Anthea and Jane will be old enough to participate fully in the conflict in their different ways.
For now, however, 1906 offers a magical ending to the trilogy, which was one of her best-known works alongside The Railway Children.
I loved the story, not least because I know the area of London described very well. The story provides all the required elements for a wonderful fantasy tale and the children are both likeable and resourceful in their quest.
Thank you for reading my review.
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