Books : reviews

Ysabeau S. Wilce.
Prophecies, Libels and Dreams: stories of Califa.
Small Beer Press. 2014

These inter-connected stories are set in an opulent quasi-historical world of magick and high manners called the Republic of Califa.

The Republic is a strangely familiar place—a baroque approximation of Gold Rush era-California with an overlay of Aztec ceremony—yet the characters who populate it are true originals: rockstar magicians, murderous gloves, bouncing boy terrors, blue tinted butlers, sentient squids, and a three-year-old Little Tiny Doom and her vengeful pink plush pig.

By turn whimsical and horrific (sometime in the same paragraph), Wilce’s stories have been characterized as “screwball comedies for goths” but they could also be described as “historical fantasies” or “fanciful histories,” for there are nuggets of historical fact hidden in them there lies.

Ysabeau S. Wilce.
Flora Segunda: being the magickal mishaps of girl of spirit, her glass-gazing sidekick, two ominous butlers (one blue), a house with eleven thousand rooms, and a red dog.
Harcourt. 2007

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 31 August 2008

Flora Segunda is not looking forward to her fast-approaching 14th birthday, as she has to make a dress, give a speech, and then join the army. Dallying, she is late for school, and decides to take a shortcut through the dilapidated 11,000-roomed house she inhabits a small corner of with her high-ranking mother, mad father, and several large boisterous dogs. This detour sets of a train of events of ever-magnifying consequences, as she meets their banished butler, and starts to use her magical powers.

This is interesting, in a peculiar sort of way. It's told in a first person, slightly archaic, slightly surreal way. Events that initially appear to be just more baroque colour later turn out to have major significance, and the plot rattles along in many unexpected directions with startling setbacks. Flora is an interesting character, trying, and often failing, to emulate the legendary bold courageous ranger Nini Mo, yet pulling through in the end.

Strange, but fun.

Ysabeau S. Wilce.
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).
Harcourt. 2008

Ysabeau S. Wilce.
Flora's Fury: how a girl of spirit and a red dog confound their friends, astound their enemies, and learn the importance of packing light.
Harcourt. 2012