This is the sequel to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, which won the 2017 Cybils award for Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. It came out in the middle of my 2018 Cybils reading, and was one of the first books I read in the new year.
The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Bloomsbury, 2018.
Silke was the scrappy street girl who helped our heroine Aventurine when she first arrived, completely disoriented, in the city. Now, she gets her own story.
Silke is still working at the Chocolate Heart, enjoying the time with Aventurine and working her hardest to promote the chocolate house. But she still feels that she needs her own place to belong.
Meanwhile, all the extra shifts at the Chocolate Heart mean she’s leaving the running of their used clothing stall at the marketplace nearly entirely to her brother, Dieter, which is putting an increasing strain on their relationship. Even though they love each other. Even though they are the only family they have left, since they arrived as refugees and their parents didn’t arrive with them.
Silke’s stories bring her to the attention of the Crown Princess, who wants her to use those abilities Silke’s been bragging about to find out why the elves are suddenly planning to pay a visit to the kingdom. Though you don’t really turn down the Crown Princess, this comes with lots of problems. Dieter, tired of Silke’s stories, doesn’t believe that she isn’t just in trouble with the crown. Silke’s short hair and trousers make her decidedly gender-nonconforming in the era the story is set, and that makes posing as a lady-in-waiting especially challenging. And her parents disappeared traveling through the elves’ country, so that dealing with them will bring up all the memories Silke’s worked so hard to suppress.
Silke’s story here looks at the power of stories themselves both to heal and harm. It’s a rare fantasy with a non-white, refugee heroine. But young readers may not even notice this welcome diversity – they’ll be too caught up with the busy human-elf-dragon political games and the intrigue within the court, as well as Silke’s personal journey. This series just keeps getting better, with plenty for older readers as well as kids.
I’m very excited for the next book, The Princess Who Flew with Dragons, coming out in November and featuring the often-overlooked Princess Sofia. Take a look at the beautiful cover over at Random Musings of a Bibliophile!