Rose and the Lost Princess, by Holly Webb, with bonus (very short) list of magical servant books

Rose, by Holly Webb, was a huge hit in my house--both my boys (10 and 13) read it with tremendous enjoyment, and I liked it rather a lot myself, and helped shortlist it for the Cybils Award.  It was therefore a rather obvious choice to ask for the sequel, Rose and the Lost Princess, as a birthday present, via the magic of The Book Depository--it was released in 2010 over in the UK, and is coming out here in the US from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on April 1, 2014.

In Rose, set in a fantasy version of Victorian England, we met the titular young orphan, whose magical talents begin to blossom when she become a servant to one of the most prominent magician's in the land.  Rose and the Lost Princess picks up just a week after Rose and her friends thwarted a nasty bit of magical murder.  Now Rose is both an acknowledged apprentice, and (because she doesn't want to be a charity case) still working as servant.

But her colleagues below stairs are afraid of magic and its practitioners, and Rose, neither fish nor fowl, is in a most uncomfortable situation.  And not just inside the house--popular sentiment has swung wildly against magic users, and the mood of the people is ugly indeed.   To make things worse, an unnaturally early winter has the city in a tight grip...and then the beloved young princess falls victim to a magical plot. 

Thought that danger is quickly resolved, it is just about the last straw turning people against magic.  But without magic to protect her, the princess is still vulnerable.  Rose is installed in the palace as an undercover magical guardian...but Rose is by no means sure her untrained magic will be of much use against the powerful adversary threatening the kingdom....

It was not a cozy comfort read.  There was an atmosphere of strained tension throughout, that kept me from relaxing.   This is not to say that I didn't like the book.    It  was very gripping, and I am very fond of Rose and her friends, and I read it briskly and with conviction.  Fans of the first should have little to complain about (unless they want to join me in complaining about the tension of  it all, and I do realize I am a particularly pathetic reader in that regard, so probably not many will).

And I have gone ahead and ordered the third book-- Rose and the Magician's Mask, and also, because it looked even more appealing, the first in the companion series about another girl, named Lily.  From Amazon UK: 

"In a world where magic is outlawed, Lily runs wild and neglected. Once rich and powerful magicians, now Lily's family hide away in their crumbling house, while her older sister, Georgie, is trained secretly in magic.  But when Lily discovers her parents' dark plan to use Georgie in a terrible plot to restore the country to its magical glory, she knows she must rescue her sister - and flee..."

In any event, Rose and its sequels utterly deserve to find a wide audience over here in the US, and it was a tad surprising to me, with regard to getting copies of it for Cybils consideration, that it wasn't more widely available in libraries (thanks, Sourcebook, for sending copies to us!).   Tons of kid appeal, enhanced by the US covers, which are much more boy friendly (UK cover at right).

If you enjoy books starring kids who are servants with magical powers in historical fantasy worlds, here are the ones I know about:

Rose, by Holly Webb (of course)
The Silver Bowl, by Diane Stanley
Magic Below Stairs, by Caroline Stevermer
Conrad's Fate, by Diana Wynne Jones (Disclaimer:  it has been ages since I read this one, and can't quite promise Conrad himself is magical.  Update:  it has now been confirmed that Conrad is magical.)

Are there others?????


  1. Oh, I can't wait for this one! It sounds just as good as the first. Perhaps I'll do the Book Depository trick as well...

    Did I ever tell you I saw the whole series for sale in a bookshop when I went to Ireland in September? I almost bought them, but I was turned off by the cover art. Silly me!

    1. I am not too fond of the UK cover art either...and such a risk, to buy a whole series unread! So I can't blame you!

  2. I love them all. Lily is set in Rose's world, but a long time later - Rose actually makes an appearance near the end, but she's a grandmother now!

    Holly Webb also has another series I've just started, Emily Feather, about a girl who feels really ordinary in her magical family...

    1. Oh dear--does this mean that the anti-magic public sentiment Rose is experiencing in Book 2 will triumph? Is anxious.

  3. Darn. I just went and looked for ROSE in the online library catalogue, and our entire system hasn't got it.

    Conrad's magical, yes. Like most DWJ hero(ine)s, he's been reckoned at nought by the indifferent and/or malevolent adults in his life, but has power coming out his ears. Christopher Chant is in that book too, and Millie the goddess.

    1. I wonder if libraries aren't getting it because of it being paperback only....but it would circulate so nicely it seems a pity.

      Conrad is one of the few DWJs I've never re-read-- I got it while visiting in-laws in England, and it's associated in my mind with un-comfy furniture and too many people....I must try it again.

  4. Are we talking about servants who are more "magical" than their masters? Taran (the Assistant Pig-Keeper) isn't exactly that, but he is a sorcerer's apprentice-type character. I should be able to thick of many more exempts of that sort of magical servant, but my brain is blank right now.

    By the way, Charlotte, welcome to the Saturday Review, but sadly your link didn't post somehow. Would you mind trying again and letting me know if you have trouble? I'd really like to know if people are trying to link and not being successful.

  5. By funny coincidence, I'm right in the middle of reading Conrad's Fate! These books sound excellent as well, both the magic and the society questions.


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