Currently I'm a librarian and before that I was an archaeologist, a journalist, and definitely a bit of a world traveler. I tend to mostly read science fiction and fantasy, though I do love a good mystery and I'm a bit of a book dabbler overall. I've been doing Goodreads for awhile, but a friend thought I might enjoy this as well. Let's see, yeah?
This was a very sweet, very quick read. The author classifies it as a "Middle Grade" book and I confess that I'm not very good at parsing out correct age groups for fantasies. I just like a good story, you know?
I was very eager to read this one because I loved Haskell's first book, The Princess Curse, so much. This book has some similarities. For one thing, it's inspired by fairy tales and mythology, mixed in interesting ways. For another, the main character is a young girl with strong dreams who isn't going to settle for what people say they must have. They even both consider cloisters as a viable option -- in Curse it's because she could practice her healing skills and in Handbook it's to indulge in her love of the written word.
However, the main characters are also very different in other ways -- Matilda, of Handbook, is royalty, rather than a servant. She doubts herself, closes herself off, and doesn't trust most people. She's much less proactive and much more willing to create excuses and avoid confrontation. Some of these traits are probably why it was difficult for me to really engage in the story at first. I guess I just wanted Matilda to be more like Reveka from Curse. That was wrong of me, of course, and Matilda proves that to me as the book progresses. I'm as guilty as some of the people around her for not seeing the greatness that resides within her because I was distracted by seeming deficiencies. Not that Matilda didn't have some work todo, herself, and things to understand -- that's what a great character arc is about, yeah?
Speaking of the way people viewed her... It's nice to see a character who can accomplish so much and overcome the low expectations that people have for her because she has a birth defect -- a twisted foot that affects her every day life and caused some people to fear she is cursed.
It's also fun to see a few linkages between this book and The Princess Curse -- it's not a sequel or prequel or anything like that, really. There are just a couple of things that show you this is the same world and one little Easter egg. That totally delighted me and enriched the author's world.
Definitely, if you're like me and aren't quite as engaged when you first start the book, please continue just a bit further. There's a lot to love.