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Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), A House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
Ysabeau S. Wilce
Harcourt, 428 pages

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), A House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
Ysabeau S. Wilce
Ysabeau S. Wilce is a historian by training and a fabulist by inclination. Well-traveled, well-fed, and well-heeled (in shoes), she enjoys writing, dog-walking, coffee and Law and Order. After seven years under Arizona's blue skies, she has relocated to Brooklyn, Queen of Cities, where she is looking forward to following in the footsteps of Henry Ward Beecher and Walt Whitman (literally, not figuratively).

Ysabeau S. Wilce Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

Flora Segunda Fyrdraaca is neither a girly-girl, nor a nerd. She is not an heir-in-disguise, nor does she have some tremendous magical power hidden away inside her, just waiting to be discovered. This isn't that kind of YA fantasy novel. Instead, Flora is the decidedly un-illustrious youngest daughter of a very illustrious family fallen on hard times, just a bit like Califa, the country where they live.

And Flora is Segunda -- the second Flora, replacement for a child lost years before. Her father, a military hero, "a real Hotspur," then a POW in a Huitzil prison, came home with his mind in pieces. When he's not rampaging around the house, Poppy's hiding away in his tower room. Her family home, Fyrdraaca House (she calls it Crackpot Hall: "11,000 rooms but only one potty"), is neglected and falling apart. Long ago the house had a Butler, a magical spirit who kept everything ship-shape and shining, but Flora's mother -- "the Rock of Califa," and the Warlord's Commanding General -- banished him. Now mostly her mother's Will keeps the house together. As you might expect, a military commander has some serious Will, but with her attention focused on "saving the Republic from certain defeat and ruin," neither the House nor Flora get much notice -- unless things go wrong in a big way.

While her mother expects her to follow in her parents' footsteps and become a soldier like her older sister Idden, Flora has other ideas: she longs to be a ranger like the famous Nyana Keegan, a.k.a. "NiniMo," because rangers "slide around the rules... they hide and they listen and... They discover the truth though it be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies." Unfortunately the rangers were disbanded as a condition of the peace negotiated with the bird-like humanoid Huitzil.

Flora's supposed to be preparing for her Catorcena, her 14th birthday, her Age of Majority, but with the day now only a week away, she still hasn't written her speech, addressed the invitations, or finished sewing the fancy gown she has got to make herself. Then Flora meets a shabby and forlorn spirit who claims to be Valefor, the family's long-banished Butler. In exchange for just a little of Flora's Anima, her life force, Val promises to take up some of the slack keeping house, and to finish her un-begun Catorcena preparations, allowing her more time to keep the dogs in order and make sure her PTSD-ed father is fed and clean and kept out of trouble.

Things get complicated quickly. Feeding her Anima to Val makes Flora progressively weaker, so the hungry Butler has little trouble convincing her to look for the Eschatanomicon, a mysterious book which contains a spell to fully restore the Butler. Meanwhile the swashbuckling hero called the Dainty Pirate has been captured and sentenced to death as a further condition of continuing peace with the Huitzil. When Flora discovers that the Dainty Pirate is also Boy Hansgen, last of the rangers and NiniMo's right hand man, she knows it's time to take action in the best ranger style.

The novel's setting -- you can make a case for it as alternate history or far-future California, or just plain fantasy -- is lively and richly detailed, and Flora is an engaging narrator with a unique voice. Ysabeau S. Wilce relates Flora's adventures in a wonderfully vivid, multi-layered story which will be enjoyable to young "Harry Potter" fans as well as YA and adult readers.

Copyright © 2008 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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