Elodie takes the stage again as a mansioner (actor) and assistant detective when a mystery interrupts her homeward journey and imperils her friends in this sequel to A Tale of Two Castles (2011).
Having survived seasickness, robbery, unemployment and accusations of assassination in her first five weeks away from home, Elodie leaves the big city of Two Castles with the gentle, shape-shifting ogre known as Count Jonty Um and the erudite but illiterate dragon Masteress Meenore, intending to reassure her parents of her safety and good fortune. When a snowstorm strands the trio at the mountain hall of Oase, they discover that the Replica that keeps the island together and the volcanoes dormant is gone, and Zertrum will soon explode. Elodie dives into detective work, eager to save the island and prove her powers to Meenore, but the other guests are hostile, the host, High Brunka Marya, is an irritatingly enigmatic magical creature, and her human “bees” are less dronelike than their title of servitude suggests. The narrative shifts among Elodie, Jonty Um and Meenore are distracting, dilute an already thin plot, and in Meenore’s case, run counter to previously established characterization. Despite the meager mystery, Levine still offers a detailed magical world, high-stakes action, and arch observations of family tensions and racial divides.
The unusual blend of magical medieval mystery and disaster lite offers an effervescent but not explosive read. (Fantasy. 10-14)