A 16-year-old con artist is tested by the political and supernatural drama she can't avoid.
The new maid in Mrs. Och's house isn't truly Ella, the shy country miss; she is Julia, raised by thieves, daughter of a witch, a scoundrel on the outskirts of Fraynish society. Julia's magical ability to become unnoticeable and nearly invisible makes her perfect for this gig. It's not the easy spying job she expects, however. Ella's not the only person in the house who isn't what she seems, and the secrets and magic attract unwanted attention from the authorities. In Julia's world, a rough analogue of a low-technology, magical Europe, witches are those who can shape reality by writing down what they wish to occur, and they are outlawed (shades of a noncomic reimagining of Diana Wynne Jones' 1982 classic, Witch Week). Witches are killed at the Cleansings, the public drownings like the one in which Julia watched her mother die nine years ago. Frayne's post-revolutionary politics and violence aren't Julia's concern right now, though it seems clear that sequels to this trilogy opener will entangle her further. Olive-skinned Julia's a wonderful, fully realized heroine with moral dilemmas aplenty; here’s hoping later volumes will give the supporting cast as much depth.
For those readers waiting for the sequel to Marie Lu's The Rose Society (2015), a well-realized page-turner in the same vein. (Fantasy. 12-15)