Today's book / books is / are THE DOOMSPELL TRILOGY, by Cliff McNish.
Snazzy covers, no?
I read these books because my sister had them, liked them, and at some point left them unattended. The covers probably had something to do with it. At the time I had no idea Cliff was a guy. It doesn't matter whether an author is male, female, or anything in between, of course, but I do know I was surprised years later to find out the truth. Mistakes we make as kids can last an embarrassingly long time into adult life...
These books are brilliant. The beginning of The Doomspell is so sudden and dramatic I had to read on to find out what was happening. The way magic is portrayed, and the villain of the piece, are stunning - vivid, unique, memorable, but all written so that it made sense and was something I could get behind as a kid and now as an adult. As a trilogy the books travel across worlds and see the brother and sister we meet in the first few pages become very different people as they learn about power, their place, and what they can do. It's a testament to these books that there are still a few specific scenes I remember in absolute detail, years later. Certain images I conjured, certain turns of phrase, and certain things that happened that made me think 'No!' or 'Yes!'
I don't hear these books mentioned a lot in fantasy or children's books lists, and I don't know if that's because I'm reading the wrong lists or because they don't have the continued wider audience they deserve. I hope it's the former, and if it is the latter - well, this is my small attempt to begin redressing that.
Read The Doomspell Trilogy because they are exactly what kids books should be - good, eminently readable, and lasting.