THE GILDED GIRL, by Alyssa Colman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), April 6, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved A Little Princess is reimagined with a magical twist in Alyssa Colman’s The Gilded Girl.
Any child can spark magic, but only the elite are allowed to kindle it. Those denied access to the secrets of the kindling ritual will see their magic snuffed out before their thirteenth birthday.
Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic is the best kindling school in New York City ― and wealthy twelve-year-old Emma Harris is accustomed to the best. But when her father dies, leaving her penniless, Emma is reduced to working off her debts to Miss Posterity alongside Izzy, a daring servant girl who refuses to let her magic be snuffed out, even if society dictates she must. Emma and Izzy reluctantly form a pact: If Izzy teaches Emma how to survive as a servant, Emma will reveal to Izzy what she knows about magic.
Along the way, they encounter quizzes that literally pop, shy libraries, and talking cats (that is, house dragons). But when another student’s kindling goes horribly wrong, revealing the fiery dangers of magic, Emma and Izzy must set aside their differences or risk their magic being snuffed out forever. —Synopsis provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
At first, The Gilded Girl bears uncomfortable similarities to A Little Princess. Though whispers of magic are present from the beginning, the structure feels overly familiar. At that point, I seriously considered walking away from the novel.
However, once Emma finds herself a servant, the story, the magic and certain plot twists that make The Gilded Girl unique take hold. The story still follows the source material but comes into its own. It would have been nice if author Alyssa Colman had stretched further, but she mostly gets there in the end.
Emma begins the tale as a sweet, clueless girl who just wants to have friends, but doesn’t really understand what true friendship is. Over the course of the novel, she learns a lot, and becomes a heroine you want to root for.
The Gilded Girl is a fairly easy read that should appeal to readers who enjoy a historical setting with magic laced throughout.
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