Heartfelt, fast-paced, and utterly absorbing, The Gilded Girl is Alyssa Colman’s sparkling debut novel about determination, spirit, and the magic of friendship.
Any child can spark magic, but only the elite are allowed to kindle it. Those denied access to the secrets of the kindling ritual will see their magic snuffed out before their thirteenth birthday.
Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic is the best kindling school in New York City—and wealthy twelve-year-old Emma Harris is accustomed to the best. But when her father dies, leaving her penniless, Emma is reduced to working off her debts to Miss Posterity alongside Izzy, a daring servant girl who refuses to let her magic be snuffed out, even if society dictates she must. Emma and Izzy reluctantly form a pact: If Izzy teaches Emma how to survive as a servant, Emma will reveal to Izzy what she knows about magic.
Along the way, they encounter quizzes that literally pop, shy libraries, and talking cats (that is, house dragons). But when another student’s kindling goes horribly wrong, revealing the fiery dangers of magic, Emma and Izzy must set aside their differences or risk their magic being snuffed out forever.
Colman's class-interested debut offers both homage to and a fanciful spin on Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess. In a world in which only the wealthy wield magic and those who can't afford the hefty registration price must snuff theirs, 12-year-old Emma Harris is so close to her Kindling full control of her magic that she can taste it. Her magical education, however, is sorely lacking, prompting her magical architect father to enroll her at the elite New York City boarding school for young ladies. While she finds her studies difficult, introverted Emma quickly makes friends, thanks to her father's fame and fortune. Izzy, the school's only maid, is of Kindling age as well; though her magic must lawfully be snuffed, she has other plans. The girls' worlds collide when Emma's father dies and the school's headmistress indentures her to pay her outstanding tuition. What follows is a thoughtful and imaginative exploration of friendship, internal change, and perseverance told in alternating voices and anchored in an enticingly crafted alternate turn-of-the-century New York. Ages 8 12.