An illegitimate girl who hopes to find her creative passion may be connected to another kingdom’s magical history.
At 10, white, orphaned Brienna was brought to Magnalia House. For the last seven years she’s studied to become an arden, an apprentice passion, with the goal of finding her patron. The arden-sisters study art, dramatics, music, wit, and knowledge; Brienna, who has no true vocation, has eccentrically studied in all the fields. Though she doesn’t truly belong among the talented (and somewhat racially diverse) noble girls of Magnalia House, they are her beloved friends. Perhaps once she’s passioned, she can even act on her romantic feelings for the white knowledge master. But Brienna’s having strange visions lately; could they be ancestral memories of an unknown forbear from the neighboring country? What with romance, jealousy, family drama, betrayals, ancient magical history, and characters with multiple secret identities, there’s a nigh-constant pitch of throbbing…well, passion. A voice is like “tamed thunder,” and hair is like “a stream of silver.” Malapropisms abound (“punctures of laughter”; “her beauty warbled by the mullioned windows”). Oddly, most of the shocking revelations of back story are openly detailed in the lengthy family trees at the novel’s opening.
There’s some originality here, though it’s hard to unearth amid all the melodrama. (Fantasy. 13-15)