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Review: Flora’s Fury
Flora’s Fury: How a Girl of Spirit and a Red Dog Confounded Their Friends, Astounded Their Enemies, and Learned the Importance of Packing Light by Ysabeau S. Wilce. Harcourt, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2012. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. Final book of the trilogy.
The Series: Haven’t read this series yet? Then slow down, and — if you’re the type who dislikes spoilers — just read this quick series recap. As I wrote in my post about Alternate History, and explained in my Beyond the Buzz post at Nova Ren Suma’s blog, in Flora Segunda : Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, fourteen year old Flora is the daughter of a famous General and a mad father. Flora is a smart, quick, brave, stubborn, a bit of a dreamer (she adores the heavily fictionalized tales of the famous Ranger, Nini Mo) but willing to work at what she wants. What she wants is to be like Nini Mo, rather than the obedient daughter who will join the military like the rest of her family.
Flora’s world is fantastic: it’s an alternate version of California, called Califa, with an alternate history where magic is real and where the Huitzil Empire is a world power. Her family is a military one and it’s been scarred by war: her father suffers mentally and physically from being captured and tortured, and there was another daughter named Flora lost in that war whom Flora is named after.
The series begins with a rather narrow focus: Flora Segunda and that House with a thousand rooms, concerns about her immediate family and friends and school. As the books progress, her world becomes bigger and her concerns become bigger. Flora is craving independence, like any teen; but as the story continues, Califa’s own independence grows in significance in the story.
There is magic and action; a complex world; hints of romance. Flora’s world is so complex that, having read the final book, I need to reread the first two in order to understand it all. There is humor, as the titles suggest, and they can read as mad-cap zany adventures, full of wit and quick references, action, pirates and thieves and hidden identities. Yet, lurking behind, there a serious undercurrent because this is not “just” about fun adventures and growing up, it’s also about a subjugated country, the scars of war, and the sacrifices one makes for the greater good.
So, if you’re looking for a smart, intelligent, unique action series; if you want a world unlike anything you’ve read; and if you prefer your series complete so you can read them all at once; then read the Flora books. Note that Flora’s story is just one from Califa. Wilce has also written several short stories set there, and the end of the trilogy clearly allows for more books to take place there. Oh! And Flora’s Fury just came out in paperback, so that’s another reason to get and read all three now.
Now, all that said, on to Flora’s Fury!
The Plot: In Flora’s Dare : How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room), Flora discovered that her mother is not her birth mother; her mother is the infamous Tiny Doom, executed by the Birdies (AKA the Huitzil Empire). One of Tiny Doom’s nicknames is Butcher, which is all you need to know about what Tiny Doom did on the battlefield. Flora also found out that Tiny Doom is still alive.
Flora, now sixteen, has had to keep these secrets and be the good daughter and good soldier the world (and her mother) expect to see, because otherwise someone may suspect her true heritage. Gone are dreams of being a Ranger or practicing magick, because doing that could bring the attention of the Birdies and if they realize she is Butcher Brekespeare’s daughter, they will take her and kill her. And if they realize Tiny Doom is alive, they will use Flora to find and kill Tiny Doom.
So Flora does what is expected, until she just cannot help herself. She needs to know where Tiny Doom is, so she practices a Blood Spell. Flora has her usual luck, which means a were-bear steals the map with Tiny Doom’s location. Flora is then ordered on a mission into the Huitzil Empire, to escort back the wife of an Huitzil Ambassador, an obvious ploy to kidnap Flora and use her as a hostage against her mother. It’s an order that cannot be refused; when pirates attack Flora’s ship, it’s almost a good thing. Except, you know, pirates.
And that’s just the beginning.
The Good: I love these books so, so much and I want you all to read them and love them. I think they are so unique, it can be hard to match them to a reader; it’s not like one can say, “oh this is like (a film/ TV show/ other series” as a quick pitch.
I love the world building is so deep. Magick is real and tricky and isn’t an easy fix; and Flora is hardly an expert at it. Califa’s struggle for independence (and dealing with it’s past) mirrors Flora’s own, yes, but at all times Flora is no more or less than what she is. A teenaged girl of spirit; heir to a great house; but not someone who alone can save the world because that is just not realistic.
I also loved how this was a world without gendered roles. Flora’s adoptive mother is a powerful general; her birth mother is the notorious Butcher. This is not about flipped gender roles; Flora’s father is also a soldier. Her best friend Udo may pay way too much attention to fashion, but he also wants to be a pirate and has his own strengths. Flora’s mother is a soldier and a mother; at the start of the story, she has an infant son who she nurses while she works.
Relationships are also interesting, but not front and center in these books. Flora has feelings for two different young men, but this isn’t something that is front and center (this is NOT a love triangle book). As mentioned, Flora discovers that her mother is not her mother; but she also finds out that her father is still her father and, well, everyone seems to be understanding and fine with that. Udo’s family is a famous love story: his mother fell in love with and married identical triplets.
Because I love the world of Califa almost as much as I love Flora. Because she does what has to be done. Because I now want to go read all the short stories about Califa. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2013.
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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