The second Tyme fantasy features dark-skinned Ella, whose journey of self-discovery—and perhaps true love—dovetails with her eventually becoming a champion for workers’ rights.
The remarriage of Ella’s widowed father has catapulted them into elite status among other business owners in the garment industry. Ella and her stepsiblings attend a posh school, but Ella resists the trappings and the attitudes. Meanwhile, Prince Dash Charming—recent breaker of the 150-year-old spell rendering all males of his line charming but unfaithful—is resisting attempts by his father to betroth him to a member of the Jacquard dynasty. More resistance brews at the National Academy of Fairy Godparenting due to a corrupt leader. The third-person narrative alternates perspective among Ella, Dash, and fairy godfathers Serge and Jasper, all endearing and believable characters. Their tales are as deftly interwoven as the vying houses’ fine garments, even as they reveal to young readers such dark, contemporary issues as enforced child labor, difficulties faced by working-class families, and the harm that is caused by grim factory conditions. Balancing such strong stuff as a graphically depicted garment-factory fire are liberal infusions of magic and humor, which includes a government with a House of Mortals and a House of Magic. Casual references to different skin colors and to LGBTQ characters are also commendable. The book stands alone while also complementing Grounded (2015), the first in the series.
Great, smart fun. (maps) (Fantasy. 10-14)