I checked this book out from the library a few months ago, but didn't get around to reading it before I had to return it. But it still seemed interesting to me, so I decided to give it another try.
I did get around to reading it this time. However, I'm kind of wishing I hadn't bothered. This book wasn't the most terrible thing I've read, but I really didn't like it much. The characters were either flat or just uninteresting. All the good plots were unexplored and the ones that made up the bulk of the book were silly and frustrating.
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers galore to follow! Read on at your own risk!
When Lucinda was a young child her parents left for a royal ball and never came back. After their deaths she was forced to move in with her aunt and uncle. While her uncle genuinely cares for her, her aunt seems to harbor an unexplained hatred toward her. On one particularly eventful day her uncle's jewelry shop gets a visit from the "dreaded Amaranth witch", the crown prince and a common street thief all of whom play a part in the events of the rest of the story. However, things in Lucinda's life go from bad to worse when Lucinda's uncle dies and her aunt kicks her out onto the streets. She has no choice but to seek help from the Amaranth witch.
Now doesn't that sound like a great villain? The Amaranth Witch. In fact, we are even told on the flap and in the text of the novel that she is "dreaded". I was SO disappointed when it turned out that this witch was not the teeniest bit scary. Not evil, not fierce, not even self-confident. She is little more than a whining, crying middle-aged lady. Why in the world do people dread her when she isn't even the slightest bit intimidating to a 15-year old homeless girl?
Secondly, Lucinda is STUPID! Through the whole book she was doing things that she really shouldn't have, and then, of course getting caught and in BIG TROUBLE. First, she lets the thief Peter stay in her house the night he bangs on her window (he steals from her). Then, she decides the best way to get the witch's (Beryl's) stone back is to pay Peter to teach her how to STEAL it from the prince (she gets caught, thrown in prison and nearly executed). Next, she decides to go see the prince after she escapes prison (she gets lucky on that one). But then, when the prince pardons her and asks her NOT to come to the royal ball, what does she do? You guessed it! She goes to the ball. With Peter. They cause a commotion, she has to run away in fear, the fact that there were only 50 pages left in the book is probably the sole reason that incident ended up working out all right in the end.
Oh, and by the way, Beryl's not the villain. We knew that pretty early on. The real villain is not revealed until at least two-thirds of the way through the book. And then when he is, he's supposed to be this great scary menacing thing. We just learned his name! That's not the way to create fear of a character! Big ol' meany's catching up to Lucinda and I'm thinking, "Meh, she'll be fine." He's setting fire to her house and I'm wondering when the goat's going to take him down. Seriously, he's not scary.
And then, to top it off - the back and forth of Beryl. She's not from our world but she can never get back to hers (sniff). But wait, then all of a sudden she did get back to her world! Lucinda is noble and tells her to stay. "I'll just go back to face my big bad villain, and oh, thanks, I'll take your stone that you gave me even though we both know that's what big baddy is after!" Why didn't she just leave it?! It's because she's stupid. So is Beryl. Ugh!
But then, of course, Lucinda's in trouble - "Beryl, help me!" So Beryl comes back. (Nice of you to figure this out after all those years Beryl.) How to get rid of baddy? Can't kill him. Why not? Because he's not from this world either. The only way to get rid of him is to send him down a magic well. Yup. But somebody has to go with him - sacrifice himself or herself to make sure he goes. Can you guess who? I bet you can.
There was one slightly redeeming plot point at the end of the book that I found interesting. It wasn't ever explored properly though to make up for all the things that annoyed me. Disappointing book.