Flora Fydraaca's Catorcena is coming up and she hasn't finished her dress or her speech. The main problem with the speech is that it's supposed to celebrate everything great and glorious about her family, the Fyrdraaca's, and her home, Crackpot Hall, and it all has to be true. Unfortunately, Flora doesn't find either of these things to be particularly great or glorious. Maybe they were once, but not since Flora can remember.
Once her father was a great champion fighter and rider. Now he just hides up in his rooms, and occasionally has fits of insanity. He went crazy years ago during the war, when he tried, and failed, to rescue the first Flora from abductors. Flora's mother is the Warlord's Commanding General, so she seems pretty glorious, but she's hardly ever home. Flora's sister Idden is a general in an elite part of the army, but Flora's not interested in that. Even though it's what she's expected to do after school.
Crackpot Hall sounds like it was unbelievable before Flora was born, but then her mother banished the magickal Butler. Ever since then the windows leak, the garden has become a jungle, stairways forget to finish, hallways end in nothing, etc. There are 11,000 rooms in Crackpot Hall, but Flora and her family can only get to a few of them. Those few rooms stay only as clean as Flora can manage between school, her father's outbursts, and taking care of the dogs.
One day, already running late for school, Flora has to run back inside to get a well-overdue library book. Knowing the risk, she takes a chance and takes the elevator. She ends up in a part of the house she never even knew existed. A place that contains a million books and what's left of the now very bitter, banished Butler. He's literally wasting away to nothing.
He thinks Flora can help him. Maybe she can. Maybe the more important question is should she help him? Regardless, a chain of events is set in motion that will alter Flora, the Fyrdraaca family, and possibly Crackpot Hall, completely.
A magical adventure with a host of peculiar characters, most of which are well-developed and extremely entertaining. Flora's life is exciting, eventful, and sometimes dangerous. Help comes in strange ways from the most unexpected places, and learning to be herself may be the hardest and most important thing Flora has ever done.
Reviewed by: Carrie Spellman
Wilce creates a fascinating fantasy world that combines elements of early 19th century European history, Mexican mythology, Scots/Aztec fashion but adds originality and wit. By having Flora Segunda tell her story in the first person, Wilce allows the reader to slowly settle into the world she creates without restorting to bulky exposition and although this may be too sophisticated for younger readers, those over the age of 13 should find it a blast.
Flora lives with her father, Hotspur, who was driven insane after being captured and tortured by the Huitzils and witnessing the death of Flora's sister (Flora the First) and who veers between bouts of drunkeness and rage in the family's Crackpot Hall. Flora's mother, Buck, is in charge of the Caifa army and rules her family with an iron fist but is frequently away from home, which leaves Flora in charge of looking after her father and keeping the Hall in order.
Flora is unenthusiastically preparing for her Catorcena (basically an adulthood ceremony held when you turn 14) because Buck wants her to join the army afterwards, a tradition followed by all of the family. Flora however, wants to be a Ranger, a group of spies and magic-users led by the legendary Nini-Mo who used to support the army but who were forcibly disbanded and sent into hiding. Flora meets Valefor, the official Butler to Crackpot Hall but who was banished by Buck as she disapproves of magic and who is forced to hide in a disused room of the Hall. Valefor and Flora enter into a pact whereby Flora will help restore Valefor to power, in return for him taking over Flora's chores. That's where everything starts to go wrong ...
The rest of the story involves warlords, the Dainty Pirate, more Butlers and more. The story is well told, well paced and very absorbing. My only complaint is that Valefor's role in the story is signalled a little too obviously and at too early a stage. The characters are well depicted, particularly the mysterious and powerful Lord Axacaya and Flora's best friend Udo, who is a dandyish character devoted to fashion. Wilce creates phrases unique to her world but which are never alienating and the ending has a nice set up for future books.
Exciting, fresh and original, this is one of the best YA fantasies I've read in a long time.
on 29 January 2015
this is one of the most original page turning books you could hope to discover, i have a vast collection of fantasy books and its the first i have ever reached the end and re-started, i have recommended and given copies as presents,its population of new and fresh ideas seems endless, its fun for all ages,it has dark true villains not so obvious bad guys (and gals) fools and the bewildered and the dream of a yellow book library. thankfully the authoress has produced further books in the series, read this one you will read the rest !!!
on 22 March 2010
This was a good enjoyable and creative story with a strong female protagonist. I was drawn to the book by the wonderful title, which made me think it would be a little more tongue in cheek than it actually was. Nevertheless it was a good story about a girl born to a role which she does not want in a dilapidated magical home in an imaginatively wrought land.
I did not love this book as much as some I have read, but I felt that this was almost certainly because the book was written more for girls than boys. I accordingly gave it to my niece who was very happy to have it.