Splinters of Scarlet

HMH. Jul. 2020. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358142737.
Gr 7 Up–Raised in an orphanage, Marit is a gifted seamstress—a gift sometimes enhanced with magic. She uses it sparingly, however, as she is haunted by her sister’s death from its overuse. Her sister’s last words were, “I think I went too far,” as the icy blue veins of the Firn appeared at the back of her wrists, signalling her imminent demise and freezing her from the inside out. Marit, meanwhile, has splurged and used her magic to sew a dance costume for her beloved orphanage companion in hopes of having Eve spotted for adoption. Having succeeded in this endeavor, Marit manages to tag along as the seamstress for a very prestigious house, only to find the entire staff to be magically gifted as well. Each servant has a different magically-enhanced skill, from amazing chef to master gardener. Mystery grows as Marit sets out to learn more about her father’s death and whether it was really an accident. Murphy’s world-building is extraordinary. Readers will delight in exploring the intricate passageways and elaborate furnishings of the mansion. Reminiscent of Robin McKinley, who could easily expand a simple fairy tale to novel length, Murphy’s attention to detail is delicious. There is a hint of romance, but it is extremely tame. The writing is sophisticated, but the morality is perfect for middle school and, like all fairy tales, things wrap up neatly at the end.
VERDICT A great fantasy for middle school readers who need an age-appropriate challenge that won’t burn their eyes.

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