Servants or saviors?
In a rich, magical world overlaid upon an unsuspecting present-day Paris, servant Anouk is one of five beasties, animals enchanted into human form, in the household of Mada Vittora. Unable to step foot outside the door, they gaze out of windows, observing the everyday lives of the Pretties (humans) while caring for the household. Anouk endures the daily cruelties of the woman she views as both mother and master. One night the beasties find Mada Vittora mysteriously murdered in her bedroom and decide to run. Anouk and her family now have three days from the death of the witch to find another magic handler who can either recast the spell or they will revert to the dark and fear-filled existence of their animal forms. This story is about family, discovery, and redefining yourself: Through her trials, Anouk transforms from a helpless servant to an empowered leader who discovers the true origins of the existence of beasties. Characters are diverse, including white, Asian, black, and brown-skinned individuals, and one character is transgender. In addition, the side tale of “The Swan Mirror,” a fairy tale told by one of the characters, is both well-integrated into the plot and trans-friendly.
This tightly-paced novel will leave readers demanding sequels that explore more of Anouk’s epic journeys. (Contemporary fantasy. 14-17)