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The Twistrose Key
First edition.
Physical Description:
354 pages : illustrations, map, music ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
710 L Lexile
Added Author:
After a mysterious key arrives for her, eleven-year-old Lin Rosenquist finds a crack in the cellar, a gate to the world of Sylver. This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal that ever loved a child. Lin is reunited with Rufus, thepet she buried under the rosebush and together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction.


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Something is wrong in the house that Lin's family has rented; Lin is sure of it. The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flowerbed, even in a rain storm. And when a secret key marked "Twistrose" arrives for her, Lin finds a crack in the cellar, a gate to the world of Sylver.
This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal who ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction.
They are not the only ones hunting for the boy this night. In the dark hides a shadow-lipped man, waiting for the last Winter Prince to be delivered into his hands.
Exhilarating suspense and unforgettable characters await the readers of this magical adventure, destined to become a classic.

Author Notes

Tone Almhjell grew up, then quickly un-grew up. In a fit of bravery, she quit her job as a journalist to become a fantasy writer. Almhjell lives in Oslo, Norway with her two wonderfully stubborn kids, a boy and a girl.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Tonight, young Rosenquist... you will find that some games are real." These portentous words, spoken early in Almhjell's fantasy debut, launch 11-year-old Lin Rosenquist on a whirlwind, somewhat byzantine hero's journey. Summoned from her Norwegian home by a mysterious key, Lin lands in Sylver, a wintry afterlife populated by anthropomorphized animals. Among the denizens-most were "once the favorite pet of a human child"-is Lin's beloved vole, Rufus. Their joyful reunion ("Rufus!... You're so..." "Handsome?... Eloquent? Alive?") and affectionate partnership anchor the pair's quest for Isvan, the missing boy who can restore magic to the land. Idiosyncratic characters-an avuncular hamster-chef; a sinister, condescending mad scientist-owl-help and hinder as Lin and Rufus decipher prophecies, battle trolls, and navigate Almhjell's meticulously built world. A few dropped threads tangle the plot, and the main villain's demeanor tends toward Bond-ian cliche, but by book's end, strong parallels link Lin's adventure to real-world loss and coming-of-age. Her story feels complete even as the world of Sylver contains enough unexplored territory to invite subsequent volumes. Ages 10-up. Author's agent: Jane Putch, Eyebait Licensing & Management. Illustrator's agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Even since Lin moved to the city, she feels lonely and misses her Norwegian mountain home, her imaginary troll-hunting games, and, especially, her recently dead pet, Rufus. While exploring her new cellar, she suddenly tumbles into Sylveros, a Narnia-like world populated by human-sized, talking former pets, including Rufus. They're excited to explore the snowy, mountainous land together, but that's not all Lin has in store Sylveros is on the brink of destruction, and Lin learns she is the Twistrose, a human child fated to save the mystical land by fulfilling an enigmatic prophesy. The promise of reunion with pet friends in a winter wonderland is lovely, but debut-author Almhjell's world holds a lot of menace, too: the villains of Sylveros are occasionally terrifying, and Lin often finds herself in grim peril. Though the plot is sometimes overstuffed which, at times, overshadows the tantalizingly rich world of Sylveros children entranced by animal tales and in love with snowy fantasy lands will delight in Lin's magical journey and triumphant determination. Final art unavailable for review.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

"THE POWER OF GLACIERS IS Waning," we're told in Tone Almhjell's first novel, a fanciful tale for children called "The Twistrose Key." This suggests a story with worldly and timely concerns - the specter of climate change - but only three of the book's 41 chapters take place in our world and time. The others are set around Sylveros, an enchanted town nestled within the Palisade of Thorns. Outside the palisade, Nightmares roam. Inside, Petlings predominate. These are human-size, upright-walking, talking animals that were "once the favorite pet of a human child." "The Twistrose Key" is a fantasy of the alternative-and-contiguous world sort, in which events in our world may influence theirs, and vice versa. I suppose most fantasy fans cultivate their taste early in childhood, with myths and fairy tales. And among such fans there must be some sizable subset who, though charmed by the sunny exploits and high jinks of Greek and Roman mythology, instinctively prefer the snowy, often maddeningly incomplete annals of the Norse pantheon: Odin, Loki, Thor, Freya. (Such was my own experience, anyway.) Those readers who like their magical domains rimed with hoarfrost should find "The Twistrose Key" particularly congenial. Almhjell is Norwegian, and her town of Sylveros has the inveigling twinkle of a Nordic settlement whose creature comforts - a cup of cocoa, a crisp waffle, some warm dry clothes - are enhanced by the surrounding rigors of an icy, windblasted environment. The book's hero, Lin Rosenquist, is 11. When the story opens, she has recently buried a favorite pet, Rufus, a red-back vole. (I suppose most readers will picture a mouse.) Through Rufus's beyond-thegrave connivance, Lin is guided into Sylveros, where much more awaits her than a reunion with a beloved vole who used to fit into her pocket but now is her size. Lin learns she is one in a line of enchanted children, called Twistroses, periodically summoned from our world to protect Sylveros from ruin. Rufus's boosted height and strength turn out to be indispensable, since Lin soon comes under attack by a giant cat, a giant parrot and some nasty trolls. Almhjell makes bustling Sylveros seem sufficiently beguiling - with its polycolored domes and tradesmen's signposts, its rabbit tailor, its hamster baker - that its potential destruction creates genuine foreboding. The place partakes of that human/animal hybrid charm of the home interiors in "The Wind in the Willows." ELSEWHERE, THOUGH, "THE Twistrose Key" feels overstuffed, almost as though Almhjell had contemplated a multivolume series and then chose to cram all her inventions into a single book. There is an endless array of magical devices and word-coinages - Wandergates, scargates, Brain Tappers, Thorndrips, Frostfang and Sylver Fang, snow globes and guard runes - some of which I had trouble envisioning or keeping track of. I kept thinking of Groucho Marx in "Duck Soup": "A 4-year-old child could understand this. ... Run out and find me a 4-year-old child, I can't make head or tail out of it." Lin makes an appealing, stalwart heroine. I cared less than I would have liked about Rufus, however, whose character never emerged as anything beyond that of trusty servant. The essential premise of "The Twistrose Key" - that a beloved pet can be reincarnated, can be loved into a new existence - goes to the roots of myth and fairy tale. It's a theme always ripe for replenishment, as Margery Williams's classic, "The Velveteen Rabbit," shows. It goes, in this case, to the roots of written literature as well: In distant Norway a nebulous image of a singular snowy kingdom was gradually loved into existence, emerging on our shores as the appealing, solid, handsomely illustrated "Twistrose Key." ? BRAD LEITHAUSER'S "The Oldest Word for Dawn: New and Selected Poems" was published earlier this year. He was inducted into Iceland's Order of the Falcon for his writing about Nordic literature.

Kirkus Review

Skillfully blending facets of classic high fantasy, this debut novel will captivate readers with its rich plot and detailed worldbuilding. Sylveros is populated by the formerly beloved pets of Earth children. After an animal's death on Earth, it passes over to a life of apparent harmony in the winter beauty of the Sylver Valley. While a winter setting inevitably invites Narnia comparisons, this layered plot holds its own. The peace in Sylver has been disturbed, and chief chronicler Teodor does not know why. Nightmares are threatening the protected border. In times like these, a Twistrose--a human child--is called from Earth to give aid. Lin Rosenquist, mourning her tamed pet vole, Rufus, who died some five weeks earlier, finds herself magically transported to Sylver and is met by Rufus himself, now as big as she is. Teodor tells Lin she is the Twistrose and charges her with finding Isvan Winterfyrst, a "glacial-kin" child who has mysteriously disappeared and whose presence is imperative to continue the magic that keeps Sylver safe. Lin's only clue is an ancient, nonsensical ballad. Deeply drawn characters with heart combine with meticulous details to convincingly bring readers into the fantasy world, while a revelatory ending makes this a satisfying read that may be enjoyed even more the second time around. Fantasy that evokes the classics of yore and stands proudly among them. (Fantasy. 9-13)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



On the desk, next to the typewriter, lay the parcel. It was still heavy, and when Lin shook it, something slid around inside. She emptied it into her palm. Out tumbled two keys, held together by a thin metal band. One was a little old and had an orange plastic tag that said "cellar." The other was large, as large as the length of her hand, and blackened, as if someone had tried to burn it. Its head was fashioned as a petal, and the stem was that of a rose, with three curved, sharp thorns. Across the petal, there was a name engraved: "Twistrose." Excerpted from The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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