Veteran Stanley concocts a delicious blend of familiar fairy-tale motifs and intriguing, well-rounded characters to create an engaging fantasy.
Young Molly’s mother is ill and her father uncaring, so she learns early how to take care of herself. Her resourcefulness pays off when she goes into service at the palace. Resilience and intelligence allow her to thrive, and they stand her in good stead when she gets swept up into a series of dangerous adventures. Molly encounters an enchanted artifact that reveals (only to her) the threat that hangs over the royal family. Aided by Tobias, a fellow servant who befriended her from the first, Molly rescues young Prince Alaric from certain death. The three then flee the castle and face a series of challenges both mundane and magical before Alaric can claim the throne. Stanley’s writing is smooth and compelling, making her characters come to life and ensuring that readers can easily follow the twists and turns of the inventive plot. While there is indeed a villain as well as some not-so-nice characters, Stanley’s nuanced portraits encourage readers to consider motivation as well as actions. Touches of humor lighten the tone at times, while suspenseful sequences heighten the tension.
A most worthy and enjoyable entry in the “feisty female” fantasy genre. (Fantasy. 10-14)