After Cisley's mother disappears into the shards of a black mirror during her illusion act, the 12-year-old must discover her own powers to learn whether her mother is alive and how to find her.
Cisley lives with cold and mercenary Uncle Asa in the Crystal Castle, a maze of ever changing glass and mirrors that trap and confuse Cisley. Friendless, fatherless, and largely having been ignored by her beautiful and talented mother, lonely Cisley has only her pet lobster, Elwyn, as a companion until she meets Cole, a boy from the village. As she becomes acquainted with Cole, she also becomes aware of her uncle’s unjust treatment of the Roma who also live nearby. Cisley's mother has left a clue to her return: the scent of a pure black rose. As Uncle Asa, lacking true magic and fiercely envious of his sister's magical abilities, frantically works in his lab to create this essence, Cisley fears for her life. The twists and turns of the plot and some dangling ends slow the pace, which speeds up considerably in the gruesome and melodramatic climax as the castle shatters, leaving shard-impaled dead bodies strewn about. Equally abrupt is the happily-ever-after ending that quickly follows this darkness, but this comes as a welcome release after the moodiness of the book.
Plenty of magic, a touch of romance, an appealing heroine, and a talking lobster lighten Townley's tale of deadly sibling jealousy. (Fantasy. 10-14)