Title: A Sliver of Stardust
Author: Marissa Burt
Wren is just trying to beat the annoying Simon Barker to secure her place as the Science Olympiad Trivia champion for the fifth year running. Then the bird shows up. And the rhymes. And suddenly Wren is in the thick of a mysterious group of magicians called the Fiddlers, who use twisted nursery rhymes to cast spells with stardust. But it doesn’t take long for her exciting new world to plunge into dark mysteries . . .
I liked this a lot, although it feels like a couple of different stories packed together. In the beginning, Wren discovers magic and is struggling to come to terms with it in the modern world. But the Crooked House is another thing entirely. Now we’re in an archaic world where apprentices can get flogged for mouthing off (read: saying anything) and technology has been slow to make an imprint. I think it does a good job underlining just how out of touch many of the Fiddlers are.
The story moves along pretty briskly. I like how much growing up Wren goes through, mostly at a level where she’s not aware of it herself. There’s a line near the end during one of her final fights that I love: “but he didn’t realize Wren had already decided to die.” She goes through a lot, but she comes out as such a strong character, one who can make hard decisions well.
If anything, I’m a little disappointed Simon doesn’t get more fleshed out. He gets plenty of time, but he doesn’t wrestle with problems the same way Wren does. I also liked his scene near the end, but it just felt more flat than hers, because there isn’t as much building up to it. And Jill seemed to have a lot of potential that never quite pulled through for me, so hopefully she’ll get a more central role in any future adventures.
Also twisted nursery rhymes do a lot to encourage a horror vibe which underscores the fantasy.
The world leaves plenty of things open for a sequel, but the main plot in this one resolves without any cliffhangers. I would be interested in the next book, whenever it arrives. I rate this book Recommended.