Feb 20, 2012

Review: How to Make a Golem and Terrify People by Alette J. Willis

Book cover of How to Make a Golem and Terrify People by Alette J. Willis
Title: How to Make a Golem and Terrify People [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Alette J. Willis [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: January 23rd, 2012 by Floris Books (Originally published in the UK, November 17th, 2011).
Format: Kindle edition.  
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

It’s easier to believe in things after dark.
Edda the Mouse is turning thirteen, and her greatest birthday wish is to shed her demeaning nickname and become Edda the Brave.  This is hard when she’s moved around so often she’s constantly the new girl, ruthlessly picked on by Euan, and worst of all, her family’s house is broken into and robbed while her and her parents are out for her birthday dinner.  Edda loses her presents, her stereo, but more than that she loses her sense of safety in her own home.  When she meets the new kid at school, Michael Scot, he seems to present the opportunity Edda is looking for--a way to lose her fear.  But could Michael Scot’s plan to make a golem to protect Edda and her home be real?

I first heard about the wizard/alchemist Michael Scot when I recently read The Thirteen Hallows.  I didn’t love that book, but my favorite aspect of it was the folklore it presented, and Michael Scot was one of the people mentioned that I spent some time reading about.  Thus, when I saw How to Make a Golem and Terrify People with its adorable cover and synopsis mentioning the famed alchemist himself, I knew I had to read it.

How to Make a Golem and Terrify People was a heartwarming book that presented some very real issues--dealing with fear, bullying, personal safety in one’s home--in a magical way.  Losing one’s sense of safety at home is such an invasion, and this book reflected it well in both Edda and her mother’s strong reactions to the act.  Edda wants to feel safe again, but she also doesn’t want to abandon the place that for the first time in her life is beginning to feel like home.  For the first time Edda has a best friend, and even though she is picked on by the bully, Euan, she wants to stay.  Everybody tells Edda she has to face her fears and stand up to Euan, but she just can’t, and if she can’t stand up for herself to a boy in her class how is she supposed to confront her fear of the burglars that ravaged her home?  Her encounter with Michael Scot presents a timely and in/appropriate solution to her problems by offering Edda the chance to become Edda the Brave in various ways.

This book was more complex than I expected, and though some of the characterizations were a little cliche (like Euan the bullied bully), I didn’t feel like this weakened the story.  In fact, to me, the climax was unpredictable, and much more fun than I would have thought possible, though I did feel the story could have been wrapped up a bit faster in the end.  I very much enjoyed experiencing Edda’s transformation from Edda the Mouse into Edda the Brave, and loved to see the changes and developments of the other characters throughout the story as well.  I did feel that Edda read younger than 13, but she herself admitted she was small and timid in a way that might make her seem younger than she was.  This seemed more appropriate as Lucy and Euan were both believable 13 year olds.  Besides which, they’re Scottish!  Who doesn’t smile and think adorable thoughts at little Scottish kids mucking about?

In the end, I felt How to Make a Golem and Terrify People was a charming story about the power of friendship and self-worth, and I very much enjoyed watching Edda learn and grow in her quest to defeat fear.  This book proclaims that ever-true montra: be careful what you wish for.

“The first thing you need to do, if you want your wish to come true, is to say it as though you mean it.”  He opened his book and started reading again.

“Fine,” I said, to the messy-haired top of the pompous twit’s head.  “I wish I wasn’t afraid all the time.”

“Good,” he said, looking up.  

“What’s the second thing?”  I asked.

“You have to say it in front of someone who can answer your wish.”  He smiled like he knew something funny but wasn’t going to let me in on the joke.

“But who...Oh,” I said, understanding finally.  “That’s you, is it?”  He nodded, still smiling.  “You think you’re a fairy godmother or something?”  I asked.

“Or something,” he agreed.
Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  This book was really cute!  I’d love to read more like it.  I especially enjoyed the Scottish setting, as this is something I’ve rarely seen make its way over to the U.S.

Recommended for:  I wish I’d had this book a year ago when my sister’s house got broken into over Thanksgiving.  This would have been great for her to read with the kids.  

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I will be very careful about what I sculpt in the future.  Strictly rainbows and unicorns for me.


  1. Oh my goodness, my middle grade loving heart just went pitter patter. I WANT THIS BOOK SO BAD. Look at that cover? It's awesome.

    And then the summary.
    And the characterization.
    And the themes.
    And the magic.
    And the setting.

    Although, the character named Michael Scot automatically makes me think of The Office.

    Still, How To Make A Golem And Terrify People sounds like an April book!

    1. As a middle grade fan, I think you'd really enjoy this one, April! It really surprised me, and was totally cute. Agreed on The Office though.


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