A circus girl attempts a balancing act when she gets involved in feudal politics and ancient magic.
Johanna Von Arlo grew up with Performers, trained to fight and wanted to be a Storyspinner like her father. After his mysterious death, Johanna tries to eke out an existence for her three brothers and now-alcoholic mother. But when Johanna encounters young Lord Rafael Santiago DeSilva, she ends up Performing at his court, attracting the attention of other, less honorable nobles and an assassin hunting the lost Princess Adriana. Yet others are also pursuing the lost princess. Mage Leão and Keepers (long-lived warriors, each magically tied to an element) Jacaré, who is over 300 but looks and acts 18, his angry sister, Pira, and ancient rebel Texugo must escape Olinda, cross a magical (but fading) barrier into Santarem and find the princess in order to restore the boundary between the lands. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of seven characters, sacrificing strong character development, and the minimal plot is dragged out, sadly necessitating sequels. Debut author Wallace bucks the trend of retold fairy tales, serves a (superficial) smattering of Spanish elements, offers but doesn’t overwhelm with political intrigue and nicely balances romances with adventure.
An overlong and overcrowded but action-packed beginning. (Fantasy. 12-18)