A refreshingly different YA fantasy: no love triangle - no on-page romance! - and a determinedly non-epic plot.

Teenage street kid and thief Digger is about to deliver some stolen letters when she nearly gets caught by the Green Men, who function as both law enforcement and the anti-magic Inquisition. She manages to get away, but her boyfriend is captured. (He never appears except in flashback, and is presumed dead.)

She runs for her life, and falls in with some helpful teenage aristocrats who either believe her story (fleeing a nunnery) or just feel sorry for her. Next thing she knows, she's impersonating a lady's maid for a sweet aristocrat girl. This leads to her and a bunch of plotting aristocrats getting snowed in by an avalanche. Intrigue follows, all on a very small scale as they're all trapped on a single estate. There was so much sneaking in and out of the same rooms that I started picturing this as a play, with one door closing stage left as, with perfect timing, another opens stage right.

I had mixed feelings about this novel, but Digger's voice is great. She's suspicious, scornful of the "nobs," a compulsive thief, accustomed to living on the edge and bewildered by people being nice to her. Surely they have some ulterior motive!

The plot, which needed to be as clever as the protagonist, is awfully rickety. People consistently help Digger out and tell her extremely important state secrets for no good reason. In a book whose protagonist's main characteristic is self-sufficiency, this was unnecessary and implausible. Digger earns a living by ferreting out secrets; she should have had to ferret out everything, not have several crucial ones just handed to her.

This is doubly implausible given that she's (supposedly) an ordinary girl of gentle birth, fallen on hard times and working as a lady's maid. The maid should not have aristocratic adults confiding secrets in her which they could be executed for, on the basis that she seems intelligent!

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Likable characters, good protagonist, and definitely different from the mainstream, but the plot had big problems.



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