Cover Image: A Little Heart

A Little Heart

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Member Reviews

To be honest, I was expecting to experience more about their adventures in magical school but this was more towards the how Helen was so sick and how she is saved. TBH I really had a hard time reading this without feeling icky because the way they romanticize the love relationship between 12 years old seems wrong to me. Cringey and again weird when the part he is feeding her like a baby. They also had an engagement.

I was also hoping that there will be more magical towards the ending but no, just Helen experienced her first menses and yeah.

This is just not for me, although the writing was easy to read. Therefore, if there is a sequel to this book, I will just skip it.

Thank you NetGalley & publisher for this eARC.

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This was a wonderfully written young adult novel, it had everything that I was hoping for and loved the magically elements. The characters worked in this school and I loved that the main character was a little fragile. Vladarg Delsat does a great job in writing this and left me wanting to read more.

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I really liked the sound of this book, and I expected to like it, but unfortunately, it just didn't quite connect with me.

I didn't feel the connection with Helen that I expected, and when the character of Philip was introduced, something about the romantic element in the story didn't quite work for me, especially as the characters were only twelve. Something about it just didn't feel quite right to me. I think if the characters were a few years older, it could have worked, but it didn't.

There was a magical theme in this story, and I think it could have been a charming story, but somehow, it just didn't quite work.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy to review.

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Not one hundred percent my cup of tea I really struggled to stick with the story.

Helen has a weak heart, is wheel chair bound and is not a happy girl. So many activities are forbidden to her, and other kids are reluctant to befriend her as she can’t do fun things like run and dance and swim. Then she arrives at the mysterious Graswangtal School of witchcraft - a place full of magic and forbidden knowledge, and Phillip. Phillip is her Insta love, her “Angel” as she calls him - ad nauseam through the whole book. I actually had a lot of issues with their love, portrayed so deeply, at such a young age - not saying that teens can’t love deeply, but this love started as 12 year olds and was written as though they were adults.

There are several medical emergencies that Helen goes through and with his medical background the author makes it easy to understand what is happening. I found the magical school of witchcraft wasn’t front and centre but the magic that got Helen through her emergencies did.

There were several editing issues - the font and the alignment was to the right with no margin making it hard to read. As this was an Advanced Copy I presume they have been fixed. Written in English which is the author’s third language some phrases and word context were a little hard to follow on the odd occasion. Having said that - I couldn’t write a book in German or Russian so I can’t complain too much.

Overall, for me, it is an average read - 2 1/2 stars

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Thankyou to netgalley and the author for the early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately this book was a dnf for me. The plot sounded promising however we were hit straight away with a large info dump on a variety of characters that was very confusing to follow. The writing was also hard to enjoy, it felt very juvenile and simple.

The plot honestly did not go the way I was expecting. I was hoping the main focus to be on the magical school and the main character’s journey. But instead, the immediate focus is on the main character’s medical emergencies and how she is “saved” by a 12 year old boy who she just met. I found this very strange as they are children, and Phillip (the love interest) straight away becomes a caregiver for the main character Helen. After the 2 characters know each other for less than a day, doctors and nurses are giving medical advice to Phillip on how to take care of Helen (again.. they are 12 years old…)

So unfortunately a dnf for me, overall I found the writing too simple to enjoy and the plot having a child become another child’s caregiver and be the “hero” for taking care of her just felt very odd.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Bookbuzz for sending me an ARC of A Little Heart in exchange for an honest review.

In order to be completely honest and transparent, I could not finish this book. I had to DNF the title because of the poor writing quality. From the prologue we are immediately dropped into a very large and rather confusing info dump, as well as introducing an entire myriad of characters without giving us enough information to really understand them or help us to keep them straight in our heads. There were multiple paragraphs I had to read more than once to try and figure out what was actually happening. I understand wanting to establish context for the world early on, but it didn't feel organic at all.

From there, we jump into the perspective of the main character, Helen. It's obvious that Helen is quite young. What was frustrating to me is a reader is that obviously you want to keep the voice of the story young, but the writing itself felt quite juvenile. The sentences were choppy and the flow of the story didn't feel natural. There were spots where there were asides like "hee-hee" written in, making it feel more like a child's journal than a novel.

I have seen that a number of people rated thsi book rather highly, so I'm glad to see that it is resonating with some readers. But for me, the writing made me unable to finish.

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Thank you to BookBuzz.net and NetGalley for the ARC. The views expressed are all mine, freely given. These are my views, and I know other reviewers have a totally different take on this book. My problem and rating are based on the main characters being twelve. If they had been adults I wouldn’t have had any issues, and my rating would have been very different. My opinion, if you are a parent, is to read the book yourself and make up your own mind before giving it to your child. I did like the start as we are introduced to Helen and her disability. There is a good story here. I think I would have given four stars for the story with adult main characters. But as they are children I didn’t find this mystical or magical or appropriate in that setting at all. The book is mostly about Helen’s need for a 24/7 carer and possibly her cure. But I was appalled as we are introduced to a relationship between two twelve year olds. Where Helen is totally dependent on Paul, including all her washing and sanity needs. Then they are almost immediately married and expected to be together for rest of their lives, because this will somehow help Helen’s treatment. Neither a magic boarding school nor magic in general are any real focus in the story except to take Helen away from her parents by falsehood at the beginning, and magic right at the end.

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A spellbinding YA teen fantasy that effortlessly weaves together magic, mystery, and matters of the heart. The story follows Helen, a young girl with a fragile heart, as she finds herself transported to the enigmatic Graswangtal School of witchcraft. What unfolds is a beautifully crafted narrative that explores the power of an unbreakable bond and the resilience of the human spirit. The author’s storytelling is nothing short of magical, drawing readers into a world filled with ancient spells, moonlit dances, and forbidden knowledge. The connection between Helen and Philip is palpable, and their journey is a testament to the enduring nature of love.

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Hey, magic-loving teens, listen up! A Little Heart is like the coolest spell you've ever cast, and you won't want to miss out on this enchanting ride. Meet Helen, a book-loving girl with a heart condition that's as fragile as a glass slipper. But when she gets whisked away to the Graswangtal School of witchcraft, you know things are about to get wild.

Why should you read this book? Because it's not your average fantasy tale – it's a heartfelt journey that's all about love and the incredible magic we find within ourselves. Vladarg Delsat spins a story that's so captivating, you'll be turning pages faster than a wizard can say "abra cadabra." And let's not forget Helen and Philip – their connection is the kind of magical bond we all dream of. So, if you're craving a magical adventure that'll make your heart dance, A Little Heart is the perfect spell for you. Dive in and let the magic whisk you away!

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A delightful magical book that all of the children enjoyed. A heartwarming tale of love, adventure and caring for others.

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I received a pre-publication version via Netgalley for review, and as I often do, I offer the disclaimer that it may receive more editing before publication, but that even if it does, there are enough issues that inevitably some, perhaps many, will be overlooked. Mostly, those issues stem from the author not having English as his first language (probably not even his second); the English is frequently not at all idiomatic, though I only hit one sentence that I found completely incomprehensible. He also makes a couple of mistakes that plenty of native English speakers make, punctuating dialog tags as separate sentences rather than part of the same sentence, and splicing sentences together with commas that should be separated by periods. They're all understandable issues, and not really the author's fault, but they do stand in the way of immersing into the story.

But what about the story? This was the more serious issue for me, and was what caused me to give up on it halfway through. Although the setting of much of the book is a magical school of the kind that has become so popular, there's very little focus on either the magic or the school. The magic, in fact, is not much more than a complication (it's incompatible with the technology that the main character, Helen, needs to help her deal with her serious medical issues), and that complication is quite easily resolved by more magic.

In fact, there's not a lot of conflict or complication in general, apart from the MC's frequent medical emergencies, and they're all resolved almost as soon as they arise. Everyone is kind and understanding and helpful, apart from a couple of adults who behave badly and instantly get fired, never (as far as I read) to be heard from again. None of the kids are nasty to the MC for more than a brief moment, and most of them are instantly and perfectly supportive and remain completely undeveloped, indeed undifferentiated, as characters.

Particularly saintly (and more developed) is Philip, who instantly befriends the MC when she arrives at the magic school and becomes her caregiver, selflessly helping her with a maturity well beyond his twelve years. The whole middle of the book then largely consists of: medical emergency, Philip does something that saves Helen, Helen gushes about how he's her angel and as long as he's with her she'll be fine, repeat. This became cloying to me after a while, and lost any sense of momentum.

I checked the ending to see if it was what I thought it would be, and unfortunately it was. <spoiler>





Any discussion of disability fiction I've read always brings up the problem of the "cure narrative" - that the only way most writers can think of to wrap up a story about a disabled person is to have them be cured, which obviously is not the experience of the vast majority of disabled people, and which implies that this is the only way in which their story can end happily. This book ends with Helen cured, by means of what is almost literally a deus ex machina (though there is a bit of foreshadowing). </spoiler>

The author is from Russia originally, though ethnically German, and it struck me that a Russian author trying to write a book that isn't about suffering is a bit like a British author trying to write one that isn't about social class, or a French author one that isn't about sex, or a Chinese author one that isn't about family: the book will end up being about that anyway, just in a different way from usual.

Let's be clear: as a caregiver myself, or just as a human being, it's great to see a book which centrally features disability and the many challenges it brings for both people with disabilities and their caregivers. The author, according to his bio, has personal experience of raising children with disabilities, and it's the main theme of his writing. It's just that, for me, there needed to be more tension in the struggles, and the solutions needed to be less instantaneous, and the characters more human and less perfectly saintly, for it to work well as a story. For me, it falls into the category of "Worthy, but not especially enjoyable as fiction."

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The first in a new middle grade fantasy series about Helen, a girl with a weak heart, who finds herself attending a witchcraft school, called Graswangtal School. There, she meets Philip.

I wanted to like this book based on the premise, but I think it had too much setup and not enough character development within that. I didn't really connect with the characters' voices, and there were times I felt like it was trying to be Harry Potter.

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Rating: 1/5 stars

I don’t like to hate on independently published works, but when they are this horrifyingly bad and include harmful depictions of disability: I feel the need to actively warn people away from it.
What was supposed to be an uplifting and potentially empowering story of a girl with a chronic heart condition entering a wizarding school, ended up as (yes I’m calling it!) my worst read of 2023.

On a story-level:
I struggled to find a single redeeming quality in this book. The plot is barely existent and focusses solely on the insta-love relationship between Helen and her love-interest Philip, who “lovingly and heroically” steps up to help our feeble protagonist. (more on this dynamic later) The magic-school seems more of an after-thought and barely plays into the story. There is no other conflict in the plot to be resolved, other than the protagonists illness (again, more on this later).
The characters are flatter than cardboard: Helen is a fragile, damaged little girl and Philip is her loving helper. Their relationship is weak at the best of times, but far more often boarders on creepy and problematic. They are never portrayed as equal, Helen being dependent on Philip due to her disability, and their relationship is presented as far deeper than it has any right to be. From calling each other “my angel” after barely any page time together to an ACTUAL TEENAGE MARRIAGE; it all gave me the creeps, especially knowing this is penned by an older man.
Speaking of penning; I can’t tell if it’s the author fault or the translator, but the writing isn’t good. The prologue reads like every line was run through thesaurus.com, giving it a strange pretentious feel given its target audience. After that, the character development (absent), pacing and overall ability to tell a compelling story just aren’t up to par.

On a representation level:
Worse than all of the above; this book could serve as the poster-child for everything you can do wrong in disability-representation in (childrens-)fiction. I will try to keep it short and succinct, but honestly: it’s worse than I can convey here.
Helen, our protagonist is portrayed as a completely passive victim to her life and body the entire time. Words like “weak” and “fragile” are constantly used for her, as well as all other characters referring to her as “girl”, and even “cripple” at one point. Note: that word isn’t challenged on page.
This goes beyond characters being ableist; it’s fundamentally built within the story.
Allow me to quote a literal passage of the book to show you just how little the author thinks of her (and subsequently disabled people as a whole…?)

“I have no future, I will never be able to give birth to a child, to be a mother, just because I can’t handle the strain. So there will be no family. And what is the point of living if there is no happiness anyway.”
Again: not challenged on page!

Conversely, Philip is praised for the heroism of his caretakers role, perpetuating the idea that disabled people are nothing but a burden to their friends and family.
Is it any surprise then, that the author pulls out the oldest and most-hated trope in disability-fiction as well? That’s right: we have a magical healing to achieve a happy ending… I saw it coming form miles away, and it still burned me.
I cannot stress how inappropriate, hurtful and disheartening it is to still see stuff like this being written in 2023. Twisting the knife even deeper: this book is written by a medical doctor. A pediatrician at that… As a medical doctor ánd disabled person; this unfortunately made a lot of sense… The glorification of the caregiver, the objectification of the patient, the “must-cure-the-broken” mentality. It’s telling of a self-glorifying, pitying worldview within the profession that needs to go the way of the dodo.

If you want some recommendations for better and more positive disability-representation, you can find a full list on my blog, which I attempt to keep as up-to-date as possible. Safe to say: this book won’t be joining it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Vladarg Delsat's "A Little Heart" took me to a realm where magic and the human heart interact unexpectedly. Helen, a frail girl, hides in books. She had no idea her life would change magically.

The story of Helen, who miraculously enters the Graswangtal School of wizardry, is well told. The author vividly depicts this mythical region with ancient spells, moonlight dances, and forbidden knowledge. The environment, full of mysteries, adds mystique to the plot.

Helen and Philip's relationship is a book highlight. Their relationship grows as the narrative proceeds in the magical school. The author writes a story of passion, empathy, and eternal love that transcends Helen's heartbreak and their wonderful universe.

The author's universe is simple to imagine because to the prose's vivid depictions of magic. The well-balanced pace lets readers enjoy wonder, adventure, and love.

Hope, companionship, and the human heart's unique enchantment captured me as I read the story. The narrative teases future experiences, allowing the imagination to run wild.

"A Little Heart" is perfect for lovers of wonderful journeys, meaningful friendships, and beautiful love stories. It addresses sorcery and human perseverance and courage. Vladarg Delsat's story merges the mystical and emotional, bringing love and witchcraft to heartbeats.

In conclusion, "A Little Heart" is an epic story about magic, love, and the notion that destiny may happen unexpectedly. Buy your book now and let love and witchcraft seduce you in this intriguing story.

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