Flora Segunda (or Flora the Second) has become the caretaker of her family’s home, Crackpot Hall, and her father ever since her mother banished the magickal butler. Whether Poppy or Crackpot Hall is more of chore is open to debate but at least Poppy is somewhat predictable. Crackpot Hall has eleven thousand rooms and they are prone to move around at random. Flora knows better than to step of the proven paths through her house but one morning she is really late for school so she chances a ride in the elevator and ends up lost in her on house.
Is it really fate that she stumbles upon the long-banished butler or is this the break she needs to have a normal life? With her best friend Udo, Flora is in a race to finish her Catorcena speech, look after Poppy, and find a way to break it to her mother that she isn’t going to follow the family tradition of entering the barracks. Could it really hurt to ask Valefor the butler for some help?
Following in the tradition of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After: Being the Private Correspondence Between Two Prominent Families Regarding a Scandal Touching the Highest Level), Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog is a coming of age story wrapped within a traditional adventure story. Feeling both old-fashioned and post-modern, Ysabeau S. Wilce has combined elements of Eastern life (names which sound decidedly Eastern - such as Califa and Huitzil - and butlers who owe much to genies), as well as Asian traditions of warcraft and meditation. Interlacing these are elements of the western traditions of courtly love and elements of common to fantasy novels. Much here will provoke vague feelings of familiarity and in the early pages this becomes very distracting, as the reader keeps trying to find connections. The novel quickly grabs all the reader’s attention and the earlier distractions dissipate.
Wilce has a strong voice and distinctive style, which she exhibits with much aplomb in Flora Segunda. The titular heroine is delightful and readers will identify with her challenges and desire to carve her own path in life. Udo, the glass-gazing sidekick, provides the necessary balance to Flora Segunda and provides the right amount of frisson to add spice to the tale, but not distract from the main adventure.
Deliberate or not, Wilce has left herself room to develop Flora Segunda into a young adult series and this reviewer hopes that a follow-up novel will soon be available. Many interesting details of life within Califa have been introduced but not explored, such as the politics behind the current wars, why the Rangers were disbanded and what caused some of the great houses (families) to decline. Revelations made in the final pages also create many new avenues to explore within this captivating world.
Read an excerpt here.
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: January 2007
tags: books book reviews Ysabeau S. Wilce young adult fiction fantasy