In my January 2008 review of Flora Segunda, Ysabeau S. Wilce’s first novel in which we are introduced to Flora Nemain Fyrdraaca ov Fyrdraaca, I said that I hoped the book did well enough that a series might emerge around these engaging characters. My hope has at least materialized into the second volume, Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room). If nothing else, Wilce’s editors have not bothered to rein in her galloping titles.
Flora’s Dare picks right up where we left off, with our narrator, fourteen year old Flora quickly recounting for us the events of the first book, all of which have resulted with her still having to do stacks and stacks of chores, but this time under the unflinching eye of her newly sober and sane father. Flora chafes at the housework and the arbitrary curfews, but mostly she is frustrated because she wants to learn Gramatica, the language of magick and she can’t find anyone to teach her. Proficiency in Gramatica is imperative if you want to be a Ranger – and that’s what Flora wants, above all else. Well, she’d also like her best friend Udo to maybe like her as more than a friend, she can’t do a thing with her hair and she’d like to find a corset that doesn’t cut into her belly, but mostly it’s the Ranger thing.
As in the first book, the plot is as tangled as you can imagine. Let me take a stab at it: in an attempt to locate someone to teach her Gramatica, Flora learns that her sister, a diehard Army officer, has deserted to join the rebels who want to oust the foreign tyrants currently running the city. She also discovers that the earthquakes that are rocking the city are caused by a supernatural entity trapped in the shape of a giant squid and imprisoned in the sewers – the creature’s struggles are demolishing the city. Udo, always wanting to make a quick buck, decides to become a bounty hunter and manages to get himself possessed by an evil spirit with a penchant for flashy footwear. Flora takes it upon herself to solve all these problems, all the while sneaking out of the house so her father won’t know what she’s up to; it’s not easy and at one point she ends up in an oubliette thirty-seven years in the past with only a plushy stuffed pig for protection. (The plushy pig turns out to be more help than you might think.) And as she did in the first book, the author manages to tie most of the plot threads together – although it does get a little frantic at times – while offering up a reveal at the end that opens the door for book #3.
The Flora books are not as dark or dense as the Harry Potter series, but the characters are put in fairly serious danger and people do die. The heroine is brave, funny, clever and determined but things do not happen easily for her, either in her adventures or her regular life. As a teenager on the cusp of adulthood, Flora is still trying to figure out who she really is and as such her struggles, both the realistic and the fantastic, are readily relatable to the reader.
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