Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce is just odd. For one thing, the book is fully titled as 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, and while I don’t have a problem with long titles in general — see my love for Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books, or Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede’s collaborations — the problem with this title is the same problem I had with the book. It’s just trying to contain too many things. Also, stop spelling magic with a K. It’s twee.
This book has lots of neat ideas. Awesome mansions that have rooms that move around? Check. Insane characters? Check. Teenage girl that doesn’t want to do what her mom wants her to do? Absolutely required in books of this ilk. Magical servants? Check. Blossoming magical abilities, hidden powers, backstabbing and betrayal? Checkitty check check. However, it’s the literary equivalent of dumping everything in the fridge into a stock pot, adding a gallon of water and calling it soup. It just doesn’t form a harmonious or enjoyable experience for the reader. The plot is all over the place with multiple competing story lines that fight against each other.
Now, obviously, if you read reviews at Amazon I am a lunatic, because it gets sparkling reviews and is hailed as the sequel to HARRY POTTER. I respectfully disagree. I spent a considerable portion of my time wondering where this book was taking place. The naming structure is Spanish and/or Portuguese, the bad guys have an Aztec naming system and eagle-deity system, and there’s just some odd exclamations that I spent overly long trying to figure out how to pronounce. You have a Catorcena which is their equivalent of a Quinceañera, which would also argue for Mexico, but this is not recognizably Mexico in other regards, including the non-machismo allowance for a female to be the ranking officer of the military.
Now, this may seem nitpicky, but if I am spending this much time trying to figure out where the story is taking place, it means I don’t actually believe in the world the author has created, and if you’re writing a fantasy, I think getting the reader to actually believe in the world you are describing is an essential ingredient to success. I made it almost halfway through before I finally gave up. There are just too many other good books out there to make myself continue reading this one.