The finale to a low-key middle-grade fantasy trilogy falters under the weight of earnest moralizing.
Fer is now the true Lady of the Summerlands, oath-bound to serve her people. But there are other Lords and Ladies who would rather rule than serve, and by forswearing their oaths to remove their mesmerizing “glamories,” they have brought a deathly sickness to their realms. Only the half-human Fer can stop the spreading curse of the “stilth,” and that will require trusting in Rook and his brother-pucks—whose very nature is to lie and betray. The magical lands are small and contained, drawn with exquisite attention to detail, which makes the creeping ruin all the more horrifying. Fer remains a likable heroine, having outgrown much of her earlier naïveté while retaining her compassion, bravery and unwavering sense of right and wrong. Rook is an appealing foil as he struggles with unexpected feelings of friendship and loyalty. Unfortunately, the remaining characters are barely sketched, with their personalities changing to serve the convenience of the plot. Too many fortuitous twists and nick-of-time rescues drain the narrative suspense, and the climactic confrontation is less inspiring triumph than wince-inducing bathos (spoiler alert: All you need is love).
Still, in a genre overstuffed with grim dystopias and angst-y Chosen Ones, there’s pleasure to be found in a quiet, gentle—if excessively well-meaning—adventure tale. (Fantasy. 10-14)