A breathless—for the most part page-turning—adventure pits a poor, fatherless girl against all sides in a battle for a dragon’s heart and a city’s freedom.
Petra is clearly the odd girl out when her class goes on a field trip to Ludmilla’s Cosmetics Emporium, and she’s the only one to receive a vial of perfume distilled from the mystical song of a dragonka (a descendent of ancient dragons)—launching events that culminate in revolution. An apparent epidemic of “dragonka fever” allows the monarchy’s police force, the Boot, to impose martial law on behalf of the child emperor, Archibald the Precious. As the city falls under oppression, Petra is occupied with the young dragonka she saves from a deliberate drowning. A permeable divide between living and dead is revealed to be evil at work, and Petra and a ragtag gang of orphans, the Blackhearts, must free the city from an ancient curse revived. Meticulously imagined, Petra’s city is built on ancient layers of cultures and traditions, with magic woven into its fabric. Marvelous descriptions of the city in decline, its vast mysterious underground, and the dragonka and their magical variety provide a foundation almost too rich for the intriguing but thinly supported plot. The character of first-person narrator Petra is nuanced, but she has her moments of blankness, as if the author abandoned her to dash to the next scene.
Nevertheless, a remarkable and distinctive offering for devoted fantasy fans. (Fantasy. 10-14)