Thursday, December 5, 2013 |
I read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and The Secret Garden when I was a child, and I’ve had an abiding interest in stories featuring plucky orphans ever since.  Luckily (?!), children’s lit is full of either absent or deceased parents, so I’ve been able to indulge.  The trouble is that many of these books use missing parents merely as a plot device – a way to set up unusual freedom for the children in the tale.  Holly Webb’s Rose does feature a spirited orphan, but she’s not your typical heroine, and that’s a very good thing.

rose by holly webb book cover
The grand residence of the famous alchemist, Mr. Fountain, is a world away from the dark orphanage Rose has left behind. For the house is positively overflowing with sparkling magic—she can feel it. And it’s not long before Rose realizes that maybe, just maybe, she has a little bit of magic in her, too…

The first book in an exciting, get-lost-in-the-world series about orphans, alchemy, magical powers and sinister child-catchers.

Rose is a ten year-old orphan, and she would love nothing better than to leave St. Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls and begin working as a maid in some great house.  When her wish is granted, Rose is scared stiff that she’ll do something to jeopardize her position.  After all, she never hoped to be claimed by a family, just to have a change to earn wages and make her own way in the world.  Mr. Fountain’s house is mysteriously magical, but Rose’s fellows below-stairs and her new work keep her occupied.  Or at least that’s what Rose tries to tell herself.  The truth is that Rose may be magical herself – and it may be her unwanted talent that saves the day.

Sensible, grounded, hardworking – these are all terms that describe our heroine, Rose.  She knows next to nothing about her past and the world beyond the orphanage’s walls, but she has plans for her future.  They may be modest plans, but that suits clever Rose.  There’s no doubt she’d achieved all her goals if interesting (and magical!) things didn’t keep happening around her.  As it is, Rose needs all her wits to hide her magical leanings, keep her place, make new friends, and never mind the talking cat!

As you can see, there is a lot for Rose to assimilate.  Webb describes Rose’s world in flowing prose and reveals interesting tidbits of plot and characterization through easy conversation, making the whole a seamless and enjoyable read.  Rose’s story is a funny, touching and clever one, and my only complaint was that I wanted more.  More about the magical house, Bill the footman, Isabella, the master’s bratty daughter, and more history for all of the girls at St. Bridget’s.  Luckily, Rose is the first in a series (four have already been published in the UK), and my wish will be fulfilled soon.

Recommended for: fans of Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room and Maryrose Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, and anyone who likes plucky heroines, and funny, magical stories.


Liviania said...

I really did like Rose - she sticks out from a number of heroines. (After all, how many book characters like cleaning up?)

Unknown said...

This sounds positively delightful. Hooray for not-your-typical heroine! On the list it goes...

Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds fantastic.

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