The Jewel of the Kalderash, by Marie Rutkoski, was one of my most anticipated books of 2011. It was one of the reasons I braved Book Expo America...(where I happily found an arc when the event was all over, left abandoned in a meeting room). I enthusiastically recommend this series to fans of historical fiction, and I helped shortlist the first book, The Cabinet of Wonders, to the Cybils. I gave the second book, The Celestial Globe, a glowing review. The quality of writing, the delightful detail of the world-building, and the engaging characters made these two books favorites of mine.
And yet I didn't read the third book till last week, despite the fact that it came out in October.
I blame the Cybils--there I was in October with 100 books to read in 10 weeks. But I also blame the psychosocial syndrome in which knowing you'll like a book makes you put off reading it, especially when it's the last of a beloved series, and you hold in abeyance because you don't want to stop having it to look forward too (if that makes sense?). But in any event, I have now read it.
The Jewel of the Kalderash is the third book in a series, and so I'm not going to attempt a summary, because it would take too long. Suffice to say, this book, set around 1600, pits young Petra and her steadfast companions, Tomick, Neel, and Astrophil, a mechanical spider, against the evil Prince whose machinations and power-hungry, bloodthirsty madness had plunged the four of them into adventures beyond their wildest dreams.
This isn't my favorite book of the series. The relationship between Petra and the two boys has become a love triangle (sigh), and the conflict with Prince Rudolpho and his army of monstrous Grey Men is, by the end of things, not one of sneakiness and wits, but all out battle; not my preferred state of things! And worst of all, at the end of the book, Petra, for whom I cheered, with whom I suffered and worried, finds herself in the position of having her future defined by her relationship to others, instead of a future where she, as a character of action and abilities, will shape her own way.
However, I did very much enjoy Neel's story arc (which runs parallel to Petra's), in which he finds himself confronted with an unexpected and unasked for position of power! I think it would not be going to far to say that in this book he is very reminiscent of Eugenides, of The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and that is high praise indeed, coming from me.
So I continue to recommend this series for those who love magical wonders woven into their historical fiction, and for those who enjoy the adventures of brave girls defying the odds. Although I didn't love this third book, I still found much to enjoy in it, and I'm glad to have had the chance to complete my journey with Petra and co.