The stipulations of her parents’ will send Bronte Mettlestone on a quest throughout Kingdoms and Empires.
When Bronte is just 10, her aunt Isabelle, with whom she lives, receives word that her parents—off gallivanting since Bronte’s birth—have been killed by pirates. Their will, bound with magic Faery cross-stitch, compels Bronte to deliver, in person, a gift to each of her other 10 aunts, spending at least three days with each one. She begins with Aunt Sue, who takes her to the elves’ Festival of Matchstick, where Bronte saves a baby from drowning and wins the Elvish Medal of Bravery. Next, Bronte frees Aunt Emma from wrongful imprisonment regarding the theft of a water sprite’s pepper grinder and saves the water sprite from death by drying. As her adventures go on, and on, Bronte learns more about the Whisperers, who spread Dark Magic from their kingdom, and the Spellbinders, who stopped it—and that she may have a closer relationship to all this magic than she knew. This is Moriarty’s first foray into middle-grade fiction, and it turns out to be about five aunt adventures too many—the never-ending whimsy becomes cloying, and the story stalls. Readers struggle to keep so many characters straight, let alone care about any of them, and without emotional connection there’s not enough incentive to keep reading. Most of the characters are described as light-skinned.
Imaginative but not fully realized. (Fantasy. 8-12)