A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Flora lives in a decaying house with 11,000 rooms. Her mother, a general, is rarely home. Her father, mostly insane, potters around in his room and occasionally emerges to destroy things. Her 14th birthday is approaching, and she is supposed to make a dress and write a speech for it, and then enter the army barracks for training, which she doesn't want to do.
One day, in a hurry, she foolishly takes an unreliable elevator in her house, and finds herself in a hidden library where she meets Valefor, her home's magical butler who has been banished by her mother. Resenting her mother, and the endless chores she has to do because of Valefor's banishment, she agrees to help him gain strength and return. But she doesn't know what she's getting herself into.
Is it any good?
Wilce based this book on short stories she wrote, and it shows -- it reads like a mishmash of ideas, and frequently loses narrative propulsion as the author explores some byway.
That said, FLORA SEGUNDA is not without charm. Both major and secondary characters are winning, and Wilce's quirky imagination gives the fantasy world she creates the flavor of something new. Her way of combining formal fantasy-speak with made-up words and phrases based in different languages, and anachronistic expressions from our own world, shouldn't work, but somehow does, infusing the book with a lightly humorous feeling. Readers who love fantasy, but could do without the "battle between good and evil" storylines and the violence they entail, may find this odd duck of a novel curiously satisfying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the odd world, with made-up words, creatures based on myth, and an unusual form of magic. How does magic work in this world? What is the nature of the Great Houses and their denizens? What does Flora understand at the end of the book that she didn't at the beginning?