Engaging YA fantasy with just the right mix of fun, fear and friendship
"Fledgling" is the second book in Molly Harper's new YA fantasy series "Sorcery and Society", set in an alternate Victorian England, ruled over by magical families calling themselves the Guardians, who have turned humans (called snipes) into surfs, bonded to a Guardian master.
The story continues on immediately after the climactic end to Changeling. I was pleased to see that, while it kept the same feel-good tone as the first book, it soon broke free from the confines of Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, where most of the action in "Changeling" took place. This opened up more of the magical and political world and provided new challenges for Sarah Smith, our young snipe-with-magical-powers-pretending-to-be-a-Guardian-Lady heroine, Sarah Smith.
Molly Harper manages to produce a story that is an uplifting blend of fun, fear and friendship. The teenage girls in the story face some difficult challenges but that doesn't stop them from having fun and behaving like... well, teenage girls, albeit ones with Victorian restrictions on their freedom.
One of the strengths of the book is how well the friendship between Sarah and her two closest friends is described. The banter works and the mix of personalities creates a believable dynamic where the girls encourage and support each other and each brings something different to the story.
The plot has enough tension in it to keep me turning the pages but never falls far into darkness. It has a few surprises and it promises a satisfying story arc for the next few books.
I also liked the fact that the adults that Sarah has most contact with aren't just ciphers. Sometimes, in YA stories, adults appear like the maid in Tom and Jerry cartoons: they swing partly into view but don't really take part. Sarah's parents and the Guardian couple who are sheltering her all make a contribution to Sarah's development and continue to be developed as real characters.
I found "Fledgling" entertaining and engaging and I'm looking forward to the next one.