by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Thirteen-year-old Flora Segunda is from an old family, the Fyrdraacas. Fyrdraaca’s are soldiers, and Flora is destined to be a soldier too. When she comes of age at 14, she’ll be expected to go off to the Barracks for training. But Flora doesn’t want to be a soldier; she wants to be a ranger like her idol, Nini Mo. Rangers scout and spy and use magic. But Flora could never tell her mother, the General, that she doesn’t want to go to the Barracks. And there are no rangers anymore; the Ranger corps has been disbanded and outlawed.
Flora lives in an old Great House, Crackpot Hall, but since her mother banished the house’s denizen, the magical butler Valefor, the house has fallen into disrepair. One day, when Flora’s mother is out of town, Flora is running late and decides to take Crackpot’s elevator, in spite of her mother’s orders not to use the elevator. The elevator takes an unexpected detour, and Flora discovers the butler Valefor, a weak and fading entity since his banishment. Valefor begs Flora to help him, and she agrees, unaware of the danger her help puts her in. Flora and her best friend Udo embark on a quest to restore Val.
Flora also discovers that Nini Mo’s right hand man, Boy Hansgen, has been captured, and she and Udo come up with a plan to rescue him. The two quests – to rescue Boy Hansgen and to restore Val – intersect, and add up to a whole lot of trouble for the two young people.
Flora Segunda is an unusual, complex, and highly imaginative book. It’s a difficult book to describe: the plot twists are so complicated, and the tone has a way of sounding flip or tongue-in-cheek even when describing dark events. It’s a little confusing at times, both because of all the complicated names, and because the plot jumps around, including some side quests that seem a distraction from the main story. Still, it’s an engaging book and I enjoyed it. It’s a fun read and an inspirational story about the importance of being true to yourself. Sensitive kids may be disturbed by a couple of gruesome scenes. Some plot threads seem unresolved; I assume for a sequel.