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..."
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?????