Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flora's Dare

I am so very behind in my book reviews, with my crazy kids-at-home, library-moving summer, and my strategy is to try to write shorter, succinct reviews so I can get through the backlog before I forget what these books were about. Yeah, I know, succinct, me? Doesn't happen often. But really, with a book like this, full of interesting backstory and a terrifically convoluted plot, fascinating characters and a complex alternate world? Not likely. But I'll try.

This is the second in the Flora Segunda series, and I adored this one just as much as the first. Flora is now fourteen, which is the age of majority in Califa, her home, but things haven't changed very much. Her father is no longer drunk and (very) crazy, which is a good thing, but the unfortunate side effect is that he now pays attention to where she goes and what she does, which is inconvenient, to say the least.

Flora's main ambition is to become a ranger - even though the ranger corps was disbanded years earlier. But she needs someone to teach her magic, and the only one she can think to turn to is the beguilingly attractive Lord Axacaya, who helped her out in the previous book - so she can't figure out why her parents seem to mistrust - hate, really - the man so much. Flora's plan seems simple and straightforward, but events are complicated when she becomes aware of a tentacled monster underground that is about to crush the city in its massive grip. And her best friend Udo gets in very big trouble. And her sister surprises her by not behaving like the responsible, predictable sibling she's always been. Oh, andWhen Flora finds herself flung years into the past, that's when things really get interesting.

Flora narrates these books herself, and her colorful, energetic prose is the real highlight here. She has such an engaging way of describing things that makes her immediately sympathetic. Here is one non-spoilery random excerpt:
"The door's locked," I said, rattling the handle.
"Ayah, so, but I have the key! See?"
After fishing in her cuff-pocket, Tiny Doom displayed a small porcelain jar, the kind that tooth powder comes in. In fact, it was a tooth-powder jar, MADAMA TWANKY'S OLD JUBILEE TOOTH POLISH, it said on the lid in black letters.
Give Your Teeth the Old Hurrah! Mamma's favorite brand, but I think it tastes like cod oil, plus it burns your gums.
There are so many things to love about these books - the fascinating alternate history setting, the complex and often surprising characters, the way in which magic works, and the very fun and effective writing style, just to name a few. In this installment Flora learns a whole bunch of unsettling things about her family and herself, and about life in general. I loved how carefully and inconspicuously things were set up for these revelations in the first book - it is fun to be surprised, and I definitely was. There's humor, adventure, romance, mystery and, as with the first book, that powerful sense of wonder that creeps in when speculative fiction is at its best. I highly recommend this one - I know it will be on my list of favorite reads at the end of the year.

Not a succinct review, I know, but I did my best. Just read the series - you won't regret it! But definitely start with the first one. I am waiting very impatiently for the next book - but meanwhile, it's comforting to know that I can return to Califa with either of the first two books any time I like. It's fast becoming one of my favorite fantasy settings.

Books in the Flora Segunda series:
1. Flora Segunda
2. Flora's Dare
3. Flora's Fury
(forthcoming)

Flora's Dare (#2 in the Flora Segunda series) by Ysabeau S. Wilce (Harcourt, Inc., 2008)

Source: My local public library

Also reviewed at:
Eva's Book Addiction: "Endless excitement and boundless imagination, all centered in an exotic yet strangely familiar world and on the most exuberant of female characters."
Friend Mouse Speaks: "As a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, Flora is still trying to figure out who she really is and as such her struggles, both the realistic and the fantastic, are readily relatable to the reader."
Stella Matutina: "Imagine the nineteenth century with gender equality, magic and a healthy dose of punk sensibility, and you've got Califa. It's as dark and twisty as her prose, and I'm always eager to spend a little time there."

7 comments:

  1. Considering how much I loved Flora Segunda, I really have no idea why I haven't read this one yet. I'm glad to hear it's just as good!

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  2. I have the first one at home after reading your review but haven't had time to read it yet. Great to hear the follow up is just as good. I will get to it soon I promise!

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  3. Nymeth - Oh, this is good stuff. Just wait till you see what happens! I actually was waiting around for an audio version, since I loved the first one so very much. But I finally broke down and just read it. I'll have fun listening if my library ever gets it. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on this one!

    Rhinoa - I have no doubt that you will enjoy this series - can't wait to hear what you think!

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  4. I haven't yet read Flora Segunda. I had it out of the library in May, but everything got so crazy I never had a chance to read it. I'm on a bit of a fantasy spree right now, or about to be on one, so I'll have to check out this series!

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  5. Jenny - I know just what you mean - I do that all the time. :p I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, whenever you get around to reading it!

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  6. Flora Segunda is on my reading list that I'll get to one day lol. I know I'd love this!

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  7. Ladytink - There are so many things about these books that I just know you'll love. I hope you can get to them soon!

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