A rebellious girl breaks a community taboo, unintentionally endangers her dearest friend, and scrambles through a series of dangerous encounters to make things right.
Nesbet’s confident worldbuilding creates a fascinating picture of two diametrically opposed cultures: wrinkled (pastoral, magical, and mysterious) and Plain (filled with hard surfaces and sharp angles, technologically advanced, and deeply suspicious of magic). She populates this world with characters simultaneously familiar and fresh. There’s heroine Linnet, friend and companion Elias, a scheming magician, a power-hungry regent, a mad scientist of sorts, a helpful, newly discovered relative, and a magical cat, among others. Each plays a role as Linny travels the length of the world to seek a remedy for her friend Sayra’s sickness. The plot gallops along from capture to escape and triumph to disaster, with multiple instances of each and cliffhangers aplenty. Meanwhile, the author paints a thought-provoking picture of the ways that misunderstandings and miscommunication can create animosity and how both the conflicts of those in power and the power of story can shape the lives of everyday citizens. The messages are clear; luckily they are delivered with enough subtlety to keep the tone from turning preachy.
With hints of a sequel to come, this agreeable adventure introduces an appealing, spunky heroine and sets the stage for more conflict and compromise to come. (Fantasy. 10-14)