I know, I know. I lied to you guys. I make promises about intellectually challenging books, and then I run to the Young Adult section. What can I say? I love me some YA fiction. Also, I will eventually (probably) read the Intellectually Challenging fare, because like half of them were books I have to read for a class. They’re sitting on a shelf above my desk right now, mocking me.
Anyway, Flora’s Dare is the sequel to Flora Segunda, which was the first book by Ysabeau S. Wilce. I loved Flora Segunda, since it had an intelligent, kind of quirky female lead without the need for her to be super pretty or for guys to be falling all over her. In fact, I find both of these books admirable because, unlike so many books (targeted at both teens and adults), the main plot isn’t about finding a boyfriend/girlfriend. No, Flora has bigger problems.
Both books are set in the imaginary city of Califa, a place where there’s magic, but it’s forbidden, where everybody wears kilts all the time, where there was a war years and years ago against the Mayan stand ins the Huitzils, which the Califans lost. Flora’s mother is the General in charge of Califa’s army, her father is a former soldier driven to drunkeness by his time as a prisoner of war, her older sister is a soldier, and her best friend (Udo) wants to be a pirate when he grows up. By tradition, every member of Flora’s family becomes a soldier on their fourteenth birthday (the age of adulthood in Califa), but Flora wants to be a Ranger, part of a special division in the army that was disbanded after the war with the Huitzils.
I was a little hesitant going into this book, because I’d liked the original so much and sequels can often be much, much worse than the first book in a series. But there was the same spirit of fun throughout the book, and even greater odds were at stake in this one (in the first book, Flora almost dies, in this book, the city is threatened with destruction). Wilce continues to mix the ancient and the modern with devious glee – in this book, there are mosh pits and horse rides, lipstick and swordfights. There’s magical possessions and giant octopusses and earthquakes and red, sparkly, magic shoes. It’s a delightful ride.
I was also happy that we got to learn more about Flora’s family. Actually, the theme in this book seemed to be people are not as they seem. Without giving too much away, almost everyone Flora runs into turns out to be different than she originally imagined them to be, from the powerful Lord Axacaya to Flora’s sister Idden, to the miscreant Springheel Jack to Tiny Doom. It’s impressively and subtly done.
I realize that I’ve been blathering on for paragraphs and paragraphs and you probably still have no idea what the book is about, but trust me, it’s good. If you like fantasy or young adult fiction, or just books that are plain fun, you should pick this (and the previous book in the series) up.