By: Kiersten White
Date Finished: 12.27.14
“I saved my own life. You are simply keeping me company on this leg of my escape.”
Jessamin left her home in search of a better education. As a dark-skinned islander, Jessa is hated by her professors and her peers, but she overrides their derision with hard work. A chance encounter a young lord sends Jessa headlong into a dangerous world of politics and magic. She doesn’t have the resources compete on their level, but she has her wit and she’s never been one to resign herself to fate.
Can I just say this was the perfect book to wrap up the year? I read it in a single day because it was just so delectable. When I finished, I very nearly started it over. This is not a common impulse — I understood why my sister read Dangerous twice in a row and would have been happy to do so as well, but the feeling was much stronger with this one. Many of the early scenes will have a very different color on the next read, and I can hardly contain myself until I see just how significant those seemingly benign encounters are.
There is so much to love about the characters. Jessa is at every disadvantage — she’s a young woman, a despised foreigner, nearly impoverished, and cannot perform magic no matter how much she studies it — and yet she insists on holding her own against those far more powerful than her. Despite being fiercely independent, Jessa cares deeply about her friends and will do anything to protect them. She is complex, delightful, and definitely someone you want to root for. The wealthy Finn certainly redeems the corruption within the upper classes with his pure goodness. He has his moments of arrogance (although many of these are good intentions misinterpreted by our dear narrator, Jessa) but he unequivocally uses his power for good and not evil. He’s smart, kind, awkward, and a little bit cheeky. So basically, he complements Jessa perfectly.
And then there’s Eleanor. Truly, she is one of the most enjoyable characters to grace the printed page. She’s a shameless gossip, apparent airhead, and absolute mastermind. I liked her instantly (I briefly worried that she would play just a passing role in the story; White did not disappoint, thankfully) but even I didn’t realize how brilliant she was until late in the book. Every sentence pertaining to Eleanor made me love her more. Now for the bad guy: he is utterly vicious. White doesn’t shy away from putting her lead in mortal peril, and it pays off so well. The stakes are high from the beginning, and while Jessa’s victory is relatively simple, it is hard-earned.
Much of this book is reminiscent of Howl’s Moving Castle — sometimes in very obvious ways — but White works her own magic using these familiar elements. While this story is distinct in many ways, like Howl’s Moving Castle I can recommend it as representative of my tastes. I can recommend it as nothing short of sheer brilliance. The only thing I don’t suggest is reading this book right before you visit a place heavily populated with ravens. Freaky.
At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me