HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Feb. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062840257.
Gr 7 Up–It’s 1893 and Claire’s father is the weapons inventor set to be featured at the World’s Fair in St. Cloud—but he’s more than a little unstable and the weapon doesn’t work. Convinced Claire has the magic to fix it, he abuses her when she fails. Claire plans her escape, but when the weapon succeeds—with her intervention—she finds herself in the crosshairs of Remy Duchamp, the unpopular young governor, who takes her hostage to be the muse of the World’s Fair, and possibly use her powers for himself. With an epigraph, preamble, and prologue, this book should feel like a slow start—more history lesson than novel—but juxtaposing a historical America where George Washington turned his back on democracy to become king against today’s political theater sets the story alight with tension. Unfortunately, the complete lack of characters of color distracts from the narrative. With no mention of slavery (the First American Kingdom never fought a Civil War), one unnamed character of color, and white villains with an anti-immigration plotline, readers will be disheartened by Claire, who refuses to get involved in politics that don’t directly affect her. Overbearing men, white supremacists, and white feminists are cast as the villains of the story; ultimately Claire is put in the position to be a white savior to the immigrants who have come to St. Cloud.
VERDICT Problematic elements overshadow what could have been a well-crafted plot and interesting world-building, making this an additional purchase for libraries in need of historical series.

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