In this follow-up to A Dash of Dragon (2017), young chef-apprentice Lailu Loganberry must get to the bottom of a murder mystery before war breaks out between scientists and elves.
On the first day of the Week of Masks, a celebration “to ward off evil spirits,” Lailu and her mentor cater the royal executioner’s party opening the observance. Lailu’s determined to prepare an amazing griffin meal the aristocrats won’t forget. While Lailu’s feast is eaten “with enthusiasm,” the highlight is undoubtedly head scientist Starling Volan’s demonstration of an automaton that acts as server, entertainer, or protector at the touch of a button. Unlike the captivated audience, Lailu is anxious knowing Starling is in possession of such a dangerous tool. But for the time being, Lailu has other things on her mind, notably her growing feelings for “one-time-rival turned sort-of friend” Greg and her mother’s unexpected appearance. Things come to a head when Lailu and Greg discover a dead scientist while out hunting hydra. A furious Starling suspects the elves—and then an elf is found murdered. Full of imaginative detail, the second installment of Lailu’s adventures has its fair share of plot twists and nail-biting monster hunts. However, the ensemble cast and multiple plot threads are hard to track. The book seems to subscribe to the white default.
Fans who earlier fell in love with gutsy Lailu and her cooking exploits may be disappointed in this convoluted sequel. (Fantasy. 9-12)