Published by Uclan publishing Genres: Family Relationships, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Middle Grade
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What if you could befriend a cloud?
What weather would you choose?
What if the weather matched your mood, whether you want it to or not?
Stella has exciting plans for the summer - she'll be spending the holiday in Shetland with her Grandpa, while her parents are away working. But without Gran, Shetland isn't the same as she remembers - Grandpa is gruff and grumpy and the island feels bleak and lonely. The summer holidays look set to be the worst ever, until Stella encounters a strange old woman, who asks her to catch a cloud...
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Huge disclaimer: I love Scotland. Went there once on a school residential when I was 14 and I’ve wanted to live there ever since. However, I live at the complete opposite end of the country, so have to make do with living vicariously through the words of others – and Tamsin Mori’s The Weather Weaver allows me to do exactly that. Set on glorious Shetland, this debut novel follows the adventures of 11-year-old Stella. Due to her parent’s careers as researchers, she has to go and stay with her grandfather while they head off on an expedition. However, since her beloved grandmother’s death, he isn’t the same warm, friendly, fun-loving grandad she remembers. Following a big row between the two, Stella meets the mysterious Tamar and instantly Stella’s life is changed forever.
Stella’s gran was a ‘storyteller’ who regaled her with tales of mermaids and sea witches. A firm believer in magic and nature, it’s her presence Stella misses the most when she first joins her grandfather at his cottage. All the small touches of her grans that made it a warm, comfortable and loving environment are gone. Instantly, this sets the relationship between Stella and her granddad on the back foot. He refuses to grant her any freedom to explore or investigate – the very things her gran used to encourage. When the relationship breaks down in an emotionally charged scene, Stella flees the cottage. Before long, she meets Tamar; an older woman who exudes mystery and a no-nonsense attitude, and who wastes no time in revealing Stella’s destiny.
The Weather Weaver
Tamar spontaneously sets Stella task – catch a cloud. Stella is tasked with controlling and catching her very own cloud as Tamar thrusts a bag into her hand while rapidly firing instructions. Eventually, she is successful, proving to Tamar (and subsequently to Stella herself) that she is a Weather Weaver – a person with the ability to manipulate the weather. Over the course of a few days, Tamar trains Stella in many aspects of her ability with varying degrees of success. This is mainly down to her relationship with her partner, the cloud that she has named ‘Nimbus’.
During one of these lessons, Tamar and Stella spot an ominous figure lurking on the beach. Sending Tamar into a spiral of panic and anger, Stella soon realises that this is a force that she will have to combat if she wishes to save the island. It’s up to Stella and Nimbus to become a strong enough team to help Tamar take this force down and prevent a long-foreseen prophecy from becoming reality.
Rarely have I instantly connected with a group of characters so quickly as I did when reading The Weather Weaver. I lost my own mum three years ago, so consequently, my children lost their gran. As with Stella, she was the ‘teller of tales’ and hunter of fairies under the trees, the one with a house full of trinkets, each with a story. Likewise, they saw a similar change in the grandad. So when Stella and her grandad fight (and later reconcile) the realism of Mori’s writing jumped out at me. Here are two people both mourning the same person, but for deeply different reasons, and neither willing to see the other’s perspective until forced. Mori gets under the skin of both Stella and her grandad, exposing their faults and reasoning with a level of intelligence that (thankfully) is becoming more prevalent in middle-grade literature. Much of this is due to the maturity of Stella herself.
Stella is one of the most believable girls of that age I’ve encountered for a long time. Her anxiety about leaving her parents for the entire summer break is counterbalanced by her excitement at the adventures that await her on the island. Of course, this is then shattered by her grandfather’s overprotectiveness, which juxtaposes nicely with Tamar’s abandonment of any structure and complete disrespect for any rules and regulations – apart from her own that is. By the way – Tamar is great! Many actresses ran through my mind while reading; part Helen Mirren, with a dash of Emma Thompson, garnished with a smidgen of Dame Judy. No doubt you’ll have your own ideas. Tamar is intelligent, brusque (but not un-caring) with just enough ‘kooky’ to be relevant for her character development without coming off as irritating.
There are many scenes in the novel which have a ‘Pixar-esque’ feel about them as Stella and Nimbus get into scrape after scrape. Nimbus’ personality develops and changes depending on his interactions with the world and the humans in it; ‘good’ and he’s fluffy and bouncy, ‘bad’ and he’s a dark greyish-black, sparking lightning and skulking. Having your third main character be a mass of water vapour is a brave move for an author. Don’t get me wrong – comparison to Pixar is not a bad thing. They are known for making the inanimate relatable, and Mori manages this through language as spectacularly as Pixar do with animation. During certain (incredibly emotional) events, Mori’s use of Nimbus as a character helps the reader visualise and comprehend some difficult concepts. Considering the novels target audience this is an impressive feat.
Location, Location, Location
Of course, I couldn’t go without mentioning another important character in The Weather Weaver…the location itself. Setting the story in a place as mystical as the Shetlands immediately gives the reader a gateway into the narrative. Anyone who has ever visited or even seen Shetland knows the weather can change in an instant and Mori uses that to her advantage. One minute beautiful, free-roaming and fresh, the next dark, dangerous and foreboding. Mori uses the location to it’s greatest effect during the action scenes in the latter stages of the novel. As characters face perilous situations, the surroundings and weather play a major part. As winds get wilder, and rocks get slippier you find yourself gripping as hard to the story as the characters to the crag under their feet.
The Weather Weaver is a funny, touching, thrilling adventure full of realistic characters, taking you on an adventure through grief, adaptation, learning and understanding. I can’t wait for Stella’s further adventures. I highly recommend the book for ages 8-100 as Stella and Nimbus have lessons for us all, no matter our age.
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The Weather Weaver is published by indie publisher UCLan Publishing on 4th March 2021. Buy the book through Bookshop.org and help support independent booksellers in the UK