There is Earth as we know it, but just next door there is the Kingdom of Cello- where seasons change from day to day, Colors can attack and magic is real. Jaclyn Moriarty pushes the limits of YA fantasy with A Corner of White, Book 1 in the highly acclaimed The Colors of Madeleine series.

From the Book Flap

Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop. Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours. They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter. A mesmerizing story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.

Overall: A Corner of White an odd book. Good odd. Much like a trip through the wardrobe or down the rabbit hole, Moriarty takes us to a world that borders our own; familiar, yet different. Imagine if you really did find evidence that there was another world bleeding into your own? You’d probably need quite a bit of convincing. When Madeleine Tully finds a note in a parking meter asking for help, she assumes it’s a prank. When she writes back on a lark and gets a response, it takes a lot of convincing for her to believe the Kingdom of Cello is a real place not just an elaborate joke or the ramblings of a pre-pubescent boy with an over active imagination. Meanwhile, Elliot Baranski, Madeleine’s other-worldly pen-pal, knows all about Earth. In Cello all school children learn about “The World” and how the paths between Cello and The World were closed after an outbreak of the plague 400 years ago. Now, it’s against the laws of Cello to find a crack between worlds and not immediately report it. Elliott finds it amusing that he knows all about Madeleine’s world and she doesn’t believe he exists.

A Corner of White is told from both sides of the crack between worlds. On Madeleine’s side, she and her mother are hiding from Madeleine’s very wealthy father by living almost penny-less in modern day Cambridge. Elliott’s world is a farm town called Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello where color attacks threaten citizens and magic is real. Elliott’s father has been missing since the color attack that killed Elliott’s uncle almost a year ago and Elliott is determine to find him. Madeleine and Elliott are mirror images of each other; similar but different. We get the feeling that Madeline and Elliott’s chance meeting is more than coincidence and that there is much more to each of their stories than we are first led to believe.

A Corner of White is clever, imaginative and captivating. It is fantasy and reality. It is modern and historical. It is humor and heartbreak. BUT, it is not for everyone. Because Elliott and Madeleine are firmly rooted in their separate worlds they only communicate through their letters (there is only a letter size crack between worlds), which makes the ark of their friendship feel pure in a way that is hard to accomplish in the age of social media and instant gratification. Because of their limited means of communication, there is not the typical genre hook-up or love triangle between Madeleine and Elliott but that by no means takes away from A Corner of White. The story goes where it needs to go and you must be willing to sit back and enjoy the ride, even when it means taking the scenic route. Besides, getting there is half the fun.

Judge a Book by its Cover: I wasn’t crazy about the cover (US version). Actually, this sat on my TBR list for about a year before I gave it a go because the cover  didn’t really grab me. Proving that looks can be deceiving.

Version of cover from US library lend.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. US Version of A Corner of White.

 Audiobook Narration: This audiobook has four readers who toggle between the worlds and our two main characters, Madeleine of Cambridge, The World and Elliott of the Kingdom of Cello, as well as other characters. Overall the audiobook works really well. My only complaint is with the narration of Madeleine’s voice, which I realize is not a small complaint since the series is called The Colors of Madeleine. Madeleine is described as having an accent that’s an amalgamation of her having lived all over the world, so it’s supposed to be odd, but I found it a little distracting. On the other hand, I really loved Elliott’s voice. He’s from The Farms and his slow, easy lilt fits his character perfectly. 

Open tab/Last call: A Corner of White is one of those books you stumble upon and wonder why more people aren’t talking about it. I’m sending a virtual bottle of Veuve Clicquot over to Jaclyn Moriarty’s table with my compliments.

A review of Book 2 in The Colors of Madeleine series, The Cracks in the Kingdom coming soon….

Cracks in the Kingdom