Interestingly, although this book is in fact historical fiction, I somehow kept expecting it to become a historical fantasy. I don’t want to say that Kirby didn’t research his subject, because I’m sure he did. But if I’m trying to put that feeling into words, that’s what I keep coming back to: it felt like the world wasn’t entirely tied to our own. This isn’t exactly a criticism, and in fact I think it might help lure in readers who are wary of historical fiction. But it did unsettle me for most of the book, because I was expecting something thatnever happened.
In fact, though the book is historical fiction, it is also a mystery and a coming of age story. It wavers between these three, though I think in the end the coming of age story is the strongest thread. Solveig and her journey are at the heart of this book. That thread was probably also the one that worked the best for me. She’s a nice narrator–caught in the middle between her beautiful older sister and her younger brother, the heir. She’s forced to find her voice, quite literally, in difficult circumstances.
For myself, I found her story nice. At the same time, I kept thinking about Sophie, and Hathin. Solveig belongs in their category of heroine, but I never felt as close to her as I did to either of the others. It’s hard to say why this is–she is, I think, younger than even Hathin. And I think that a kid who’s just discovering this kind of story would like her very much indeed. (It’s a sad truth that the more we read, the less we really love.)
Actually, my biggest problem was the fact that portions of the book severely tried my suspension of disbelief. I think that, because Kirby was trying to keep the mystery intact (it’s one of those classic house party sort of mysteries), several of the characterizations suffered. I’m all for secrets and tricky characters, but the arc has to work. In this case, there were too many abrupt revelations that left me wondering what happened to the nice character five pages before.
All in all, I had several difficulties with this book, but it was still a pleasant read and I would recommend it to a younger crowd.
Book source: public library
Book information: Scholastic, 2011; upper elementary and up