Thirteen-year-old Silke is the heroine of her own story—a girl who knows that you “never, ever let a dragon handle diplomacy,” since a dragon’s idea of diplomacy is to point out that dragons don’t eat humans…anymore. She works not far from the royal castle, both at her family’s secondhand clothing stall and at the Chocolate Heart, a shop whose delicacies are craved by kings and dragons alike.
For readers if not for the townspeople, Silke is all charm, though she’s less confident than she comes off. She wears pants because they’re easier, sports thirdhand waistcoats as a matter of style, and spins fanciful stories with absolute conviction. But one of her stories finally puts her in an uncomfortable spot: she finds herself called before the royal princess, who charges her with spying on the Elfenwald royals and (gulp) posing as one of the aristocracy herself.
Beneath Silke’s bravado hides tremendous pain. Her parents disappeared into the elves’ woods years before, leaving her alone with a brother who is increasingly distant. She longs to feel safe again. Until the princess’s promise of a home in the castle, only her friendship with Aventurine—a young dragon under enchantment and in human form—gave her that safety. With the elves in town, she finally has the opportunity to prove herself to her doubters, and potentially to find out what happened to her mom and dad.
Stephanie Burgis’s middle grade fantasy sparkles with appealing attributes: its tenderscaled young dragon, its cayenne-laced chocolate delicacies, its wicked elves who nurse old grudges. But the true star of this show is independent girlhood. Silke, Aventurine, and the princess Sophia’s freedom comes through recognizing that they are powerful not where they fit in, but in the ways that they stand out.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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