The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery
Published By: Penguin
Released: 3rd March 2022
Rating: 5 ★
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
A heartwarming story about family, friendship and finding your inner fire.
Between bullies at school and changes at home, Charlie Challinor finds life a bit scary. And when he’s made guardian of a furry fox cub called Cadno, things get a whole lot scarier.
Because Cadno isn’t just any fox: he’s a firefox – the only one of his kind – and a sinister hunter from another world is on his trail.
Swept up into an unexpected adventure to protect his flammable friend, Charlie’s going to need to find the bravery he never thought he had, if he’s going to save the last firefox…
Charlie is a boy who finds life a bit frightening and is struggling to find his inner fire amongst bullies at school and changes happening at home. One day Charlie meets the mysterious Teg, who is running from an enemy. Ted has a creature with him – a Firefox, the only one of its kind and entrusts him into Charlie’s care. Charlie soon has to figure out how to hide the firefox, who he’s named Cadno from not only his parents and schoolmates but from a sinister hunter from another world who wants to capture Cadno.
WOW! Is the first word to describe The Last Firefox, from the very first line ‘I’m being chased to my death by a goose.’ I knew this was going to be one heck of a read. This was one of those books that I ended up reading in one sitting, just because I was that engrossed and couldn’t get enough of it. It had the perfect mix of adventure, emotion and magic that you want in a middle grade, and this is one of the reasons it stood out so much to me.
Plotwise, in my opinion, was set at a smooth pace where you were able to soak up every single detail within the story itself. The setting was superb, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Wales before so it was refreshing and I also loved the little snippets of the welsh language that were added in, it brought a unique feel to the story and I feel would certainly engage readers, especially those who can speak Welsh. My favourite place within The Last Firefox has to have been the castle. I am a sucker for a castle or any ancient relic within fiction and the way this was described was perfection, I also loved how it was the setting for the finale of the book. Amongst the adventure, we also got some hilarious moments that had me chuckling for a long while. Many of these involved Cadno and Charlie and there’s one scene that shone out to me the most and had me howling. Newbery certainly has a way of writing humour and it stood out amongst everything else going on.
I want to talk about the representation within The Last Firefox for a moment. The queer representation featured was fantastic and was just discussed as part of everyday life. Having same-sex parents featured within middle grade is something that isn’t done enough, and this does need to be addressed. Charlie having two dads was never made a big deal of, and this is how it should be. Also, you could tell how Newbery brought his own experiences of being a same-sex parent into the story and this made it feel all that more personal.
Charlie’s development throughout the story was next to none, and I enjoyed seeing him find his inner fire come to the end. His narration of the story let us get into his mind, and we found out about all his worries and struggles and this made me warm to him almost straight away. He made mistakes, especially when trying to hide Cadno, but he learnt from them and soon realised that telling the truth was the way to go. Also, his friendship with Roo and Lippy was so pure, and you could tell how much they meant to him. Friendship was absolutely another theme within The Last Firefox. Cadno was my favourite character though. He was just so cute, even though he did cause some disasters. The way his growing relationship with Charlie was told, was just heartwarming and I even found myself wanting my own Cadno, which is a good thing right?
The Last Firefox was a cute, magical read packed full of adventure, friendship and love. This was the perfect debut and I am very much looking forward to seeing what Newbery writes next. A sequel perhaps?