A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
In an alternative version of 18th-century England, Mendelion is ruled in name by a mad Duke, in reality by a group of competing Guilds, and in aspiration by a variety of royal pretenders. Since the Realm was shattered, the king deposed, and the parliamentarians and monarchists locked in struggle, with the Guilds in between, there has never been real peace, and open warfare is just a wrong move away.
\ \ Into this tinderbox comes Mosca Mye, an orphan who has taken up with a smooth-talking con man, both because she loves words, and because she accidentally set her mean uncle's mill on fire. Together they get involved in the power intrigues of the city. But Mosca, though very bright and literate (a rarity in this world), understands a lot less than she thinks she does.
Is it any good?
Frances Hardringe's fertile imagination fills this book with an abundance of complex, deeply thought-out, and at times just plain weird events and characters. Word-loving children will find much here to tickle their fancies.
But Hardringe falls prey to that familiar bugaboo of novice writers -- she tries to pack all her ideas into her first book, and apparently she didn't have an editor who told her to scale it back. The result is a mishmash that will lose many, if not most, young readers early on to boredom, confusion, or incomprehension. But there's tremendous talent here, shown in many real gems of originality and felicitous language. Let's hope that Hardringe gets an editor who will rein her in more sharply next time.