When a dark and malignant looking cloud appears over her home town of Misty Falls, Nell is sure that something is not right. This feeling is only intensified when three mothers disappear and finally Nell’s mother is consumed by the cloud in front of her eyes. Nell and her two brothers, George and Speedy are determined to find and save their mother but find it almost impossible to get anyone to believe their story. Finally a strange old man called Duke Badger joins them and is able to explain who has taken their parent and what it all means. He is also able to explain why Nell has the ability to see other people in a totally different way; with animal or distorted faces, almost as if it shows their true selves. The children find themselves on a quest, where they travel through the Dreamlands until they arrive at the Wicked Places, which is the home of the Dark Daughters and of Nightmares. But will they be able to save their mother and return safely home?
This is a complex story with separate strands which occasionally cross and interweave; the main characters move in and out of the story but always with the focus on tracking the Nell’s mother Rose and freeing her from the devilish clutches of the Dark Daughters. The one unwavering theme that runs through the tale is that of a mother’s love of her children and Nell’s inspiration is the thought that ‘A mother always knows her children’. This premise is played on at the end as the leader of the Dark Daughters, Freyja Skoll, turns on her daughter Fenn. The author has created a mysterious and very scary world of dreams and nightmares, which needs to be kept in balance and which thankfully we are usually able to withdraw from when we wake up. This is one of those stories that grow on you as you get to grips with the various elements of the plot. Even the real world seems disconnected from the one that most of us know and it moves even further out of our sight as the story continues; possible something that the author intended. It is a story about love and friendship overcoming tremendous obstacles and will appeal to many young people.