The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell is one of those wonderful Girls Underground stories that holds well to the plot points, but still has a unique voice and beautiful story to tell.
Lin Rosenquist, 11, has just moved to a new house with her distracted parents. Her beloved pet – a rescued wild vole named Rufus – has recently died, leaving her all alone. One day a mysterious package is pushed through her mail slot, addressed to Twistrose – her secret name for herself. It contains a key to the cellar of their rented home, and another, more extraordinary key. Going underground to the cellar, Lin discovers that the second key transports her to another world, called Sylver.
Sylver is populated by animals who have died, who were loved in life by a child. Most were pets, but some were wild. Lin is reunited with Rufus, and immediately informed that she was brought to Sylver to find a missing boy, a boy who must create a special gateway between the worlds – necessary for Sylver’s survival, but also Lin’s only way back home. Her entire adventure takes place in one night, although it is long, because time runs differently in a land governed by children’s hearts.
Lin acquires some other companions, although she’s not always sure who to trust, and there is a small betrayal at one point by someone they thought was on their side. The adversary is technically a shadowy figure called the Margrave, but mostly Lin deals with his primary minion, an evil cat, and other supporters. Although her final confrontation with the cat is not really alone, and requires her companion’s help, Lin does manage to find the boy and save the day at the very last minute. On the way there are magical wells, lots of great talking animals, scary trolls, thorn hedges, and other fairytale elements that are familiar and yet still create a distinctive story with characters that stick with you.