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Two, two, two books in one!!

Everything on a waffleThis was a fun little book. Because it's a kids' book it's fairly simple in terms of plot, but the characters are nicely drawn and Primrose herself is a lively, intelligent girl whose observations on the adults in her life are entertaining and pointed. She reminded me a bit of a modern Pippi Longstocking but without the animals. Although a lot of potentially devastating events are packed into a short span of Primrose's life (her parents disappear and are presumed lost at sea, she goes to a foster home, she loses a digit or two, her Uncle loses his business, her foster family's new house burns down, her old babysitter dies), Primrose's equanimity never falters. I'm not sure how an actual kid would react to this book; they might want a bit more emotion and a bit less preternatural wisdom from Primrose. I found it an enjoyable read, albeit a little lacking in depth.

Fly by Night
Excellent book! Protag Mosca Mye is wonderful: sharp, feisty, clever, brave, quick-witted, and just when the reader begins to despair of her morals she proves to have a strong ethical compass as well. Evil-tempered Saracen the goose is one of the best animal sidekicks ever, even though -- or maybe because -- he doesn't talk, has no special powers and is neither cute nor remotely magical. He reminded me of The Colour of Magic's sapient pearwood trunk, only with feathers :) The characters are vivid and multi-dimensional, even the secondary ones like The Cakes, and Black Jack Blythe's reaction to the results of his unexpected fame is both hilarious and touching.

For a YA book, this has a surprisingly complex plot that twists and turns, braiding together politics, religion, court intrigue, highwaymen and more; even more surprising is that the author manages to tie all these together in a believable and entertaining way. The author does have a philosophical point or two to make; this can be deadly if it comes across as preaching, but in this case it's done right. The theme doesn't overshadow, manipulate or steer the story, but serves as a kind of structural underpinning for events. You can see it if you look under the hood, as it were, and in the last couple of scenes it's addressed more directly, but the story is never made secondary, or treated as simply a vehicle for the theme. You wouldn't think that freedom of the press, not to mention freedom of religion, would be themes on which one could build a fun, lively and enjoyable kids' fantasy novel. This book shows that you'd be very, very wrong.



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