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by Lucy Jago

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: April 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4231-3843-3
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Cecily Perryn, 13, a lowly poultry girl in 1596 England, discovers a jeweled pendant enclosing a woman’s portrait in the Earl of Montacute’s hencoops. Her strange find is quickly eclipsed by other matters: Young boys, including her friend William, have been disappearing. Seeking William, Cess makes her way to the town of Yeovil, where Jasper, the innkeeper’s son, becomes her reluctant helper. Their search uncovers a plot against Queen Elizabeth I, soon to visit Montacute House. Meanwhile, Cess attracts unwanted attention from the Earl’s sinister son after her cousin fabricates a story that Cess practices witchcraft—truer than she knows. Cess’ friend, the healer Edith Mildmay, falsely accused of bringing plague and exiled, is a witch, though of a benign Druid-esque variety, and initiates Cess into their practices. A rich portrait of rural life in Elizabethan times emerges—convincingly detailed and seamlessly woven into the narrative fabric—as readers uncover the intertwined secrets of pendant, plot and plague. While Cess’ mundane world is entirely believable and always interesting, the witchcraft, with its generically contemporary, New Age feel, is less persuasive. It’s only when we lose the witches that the story comes to life. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)