Reviews /

Like a Curse

Authored by Elle McNicoll
Illustrated by Cover art by Kay Wilson
Published by Knights Of Media

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Like a Curse follows Like a Charm in Scottish author Elle McNicoll’s duology. It is a fantasy adventure set in modern-day Scotland, with the action moving back and forth between Edinburgh and Loch Ness. Portia (a powerful siren) has the human population of Edinburgh under her control and is wreaking havoc amongst the magical Hidden Folk. Ramya Knox, a young dyspraxic witch, feels duty-bound to be the hero and defeat Portia even though she is not yet fully trained. Ramya is brave, resilient and loyal, but also headstrong and reckless. She teams up with her non-magical cousin and we follow their gripping quest through many dramatic twists, turns and moments of tension, never quite certain of who is friend or foe.

Like a Curse is a book for building empathy in that it explicitly explores both anxiety and dyspraxia. Elle McNicoll is dyspraxic and an advocate for wider representation of neurodiversity in children’s literature. Many teachers may be challenged as they read of Ramya’s frustration with being given handwriting tasks (‘anti-neurodiversity exercises’) set because of ‘school’s obsession with trying to fit me into their narrow lines’.

As much as Like a Curse is a story of magic and mythical creatures, it is equally a story about family, exploring the ups and downs of the Knox household. It warns how poor communication and keeping secrets can have dire consequences. It also sensitively touches on bereavement following the death of a grandparent.

The text is rich in its description of the mythical creatures and the Scottish landscapes. I’d love to see an illustrated version bringing these to life in visual form. Please include a map, too!

I haven’t yet read Like a Charm, but the events are summarised in the sequel. Although Like a Curse can be read as a stand-alone book, I suspect greater satisfaction would come from reading it after Like a Charm.

Ideal for upper KS2.