The Tarnished Garden, by Alyssa Colman


Here's my Goodreads review for The Tarnished Garden, by Alyssa Colman--"checks lots of my boxes--sisters, a garden, school story, magic, kittens......I enjoyed it very much!"  And indeed though I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Gilded Girl, lots, this was more to my taste, because of it having the garden and magical kittens!

Maeve has been reunited with her big sister, Izzy, after a traumatic stint of being a farmed out orphan out west.  The two are now pupils at a new school for magic in New York city; it is the Gilded Age, but with magic.  But Maeve and Izzy are having trouble reconnecting, Maeve's magic is wild and uncontrolled, there are those who think magic should be the exclusive purview of the privileged (with the sisters are most definitely not), and disaster is striking one magically built building after another, extinguishing the magic holding them together.  And on top of this, house dragons (basically cats with magic) are going missing.  In order to save their school, and the right of poor kids to spark their magic and learn to use it, the girls must figure out what is going on and put a stop to it.

So that's a fine plot, but what I really loved was how Maeve finds a secret magical garden, and makes it grow and come alive again with her magic, learning how to use just as much as she needs without it getting carried away.  And in the garden there are three little house dragon kittens, who are adorable, who's mother left them there under magical protection.....and a boy shut up in an apartment overlooking it, who's mother won't let him out lest he gains magic too.

A really delightful story, with the charming magic given weight by the sibling relationship and by the inequality of the society in which they live.  My enjoyment was heighted by my familiarity with The Secret Garden--there were lots of echoes that I loved.

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