It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book with such pure and innocent magic, as one finds in Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen. As we grow older, we tend to forget that fairy tales exist, but Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen, reminiscent of the leather bound storybook tucked next to the fireplace at my grandma’s house, restores a part of your heart you didn’t realize needed restoration.
Warning - Spoilers ahead!
I found myself lost in Lydia’s world on every page. Millie Florence strikes the perfect balance between flowering poetry and compelling prose—she allowed the inventive imagery to exist without compromising the pace of her plot, an equilibrium I rarely find in middle grade fiction. I knew the language Florence was capable of after reading Honey Butter, her first novel, but the growth Lydia Green showcases is astounding. She takes you by the hand and pulls you straight to the heart of her mystical world.
And her world-building is stellar. Without ever explaining the Pendent and apprenticeship process in a typical exposition dump, she mentions it just enough that the reader understands it fully without sitting through a boring page or two. Same goes for the Ranger system. You never feel told about the world—she shows you everything you need to know, just when you need to know it.
Her characters are dynamic, developed, and realistic. She allows them to make mistakes and want things and talk like children and be afraid of things. Lydia is nowhere near perfect, which makes her an excellent character with a distinct arc.
Unlike most middle grade books I’ve read, this plot had no slow spot. It moved along nicely without any instances where I felt like I could skip a few pages. The reader can tell that it was well-planned and carefully considered. In the very few instances I could feel it starting to slow down, Florence threw you something new and picked it right back up again, which, personally, I love in a book.
I only had one issue with this book, and it’s extremely nit-picky, but I did find myself somewhat distracted by the common use of passive voice. This isn’t an issue that bothers everyone, and it in no way mitigate my feelings about this book, but I felt I should mention it, mostly because there isn’t anything else I could say about this book that makes it less than perfect. There were just a few instances when it interrupted my visualization, but once again, it’s a very individual issue that not everyone will find.
But perhaps my favorite part of this book was the Darkness. I don’t know if it was intended or not, but I found the Darkness to be a wonderfully handled symbol of mental illness. Florence presented it as something disquieting, sure, but not as something that lessened one’s value. While Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen has a myriad of quotable moments, this is the one that sticks in my head the most: “The Darkness found you, you didn’t find it. It just happened, and it’s not your fault.” The personification of the Darkness helps the reader understand what Florence means by it better, but also identify with it. We all have our own Darknesses, but Florence is right: they are not our faults. I read that line while freaking out about something totally unrelated, and it sat in my chest like a cup of warm tea. It made me feel so much better.
I found myself a child again between the pages of Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen. This is a book meant to be read under a big tree and a cloudless sky, or by the window during a daytime thunderstorm, clutching a mug of hot tea. It’s a book for when you feel hopeless, or for when you feel content, or for when you don’t know how you feel but know you want to feel something else. It’s ethereal, convivial, refreshing, and—above all—pure magic.