Bronte Mettlestone is ten years old when her parents are killed by pirates.
This does not bother her particularly: her parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby. She has been raised by her Aunt Isabelle, with assistance from the Butler, and has spent a pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons. Now, however, her parents have left detailed instructions for Bronte in their will. (Instructions that, annoyingly, have been reinforced with faery cross-stitch, which means that if she doesn't complete them, terrible things could happen!) She travels the kingdoms, perfectly alone, delivering gifts to ten other aunts: a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard, a veterinarian aunt who specializes in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship, and a former rock star aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.
But as she travels from aunt to aunt, Bronte suspects there might be more to this journey than the simple delivery of treasure.
At age 10, Bronte Mettlestone receives a telegram stating that her parents have been killed by pirates. She doesn't remember them, however, having been raised by her loving Aunt Isabelle and the butler. In her parents' will (bound by "faery cross-stitch") is the stipulation that she travel alone and deliver gifts to her 10 aunts. If she fails, her hometown will be in trouble. Despite the danger of running into dark mages, she begins her quest, which reads like a string of dreams. While visiting Aunt Sue, Bronte is awarded the Elvish Medal for Bravery for rescuing a baby from the river. She then saves wrongly accused Aunt Emma (who's been imprisoned for stealing a water sprite's pepper grinder), rides dragons with Aunt Sophy, and the list goes on. Bronte's voice is more chatty than charming, and readers may feel frustrated that Moriarty (A Tangle of Gold) reveals details of Bronte's history and powers only toward the end, when it feels like an afterthought. Still, the back-to-back adventures make for a speedy plot that will keep readers turning the pages. Ages 8 12.