- Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy
Murphy, Emily Bain Splinters of Scarlet. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020 [400p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780358142737 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9780358157366 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8-10
Magic users like Marit Olsen have wondrous capabilities but live in fear of developing the Firn, an icy crystallization of the veins resulting from accumulated magic use. Orphaned Marit will do anything to stay with her younger friend Eve when famed ballerina Helene Vestergaard sees Eve's natural dancing talent and adopts her, even use her magical sewing skills to join the wealthy Vestergaard household staff. The initially suspicious but warm-hearted community of servants gives Marit [End Page 489] a family for the first time since her sister died from the Firn, while proximity to the Vestergaards gives her the opportunity to investigate her father's death in a so-called accident in their mines. Interludes narrated by the enigmatic Philip Vestergaard give some depth to the mysterious goings-on, which Marit's sleuthing reveals to be suitably shocking. Narrative logic frequently bows to convenience, but readers can take aesthetic pleasure in the magical gowns Marit creates and the lush, gilded world of privilege in 1860s Denmark. On another level, Eve and Helene's West Indian heritage nods to a complex history of both professional ballet and European colonialism. This is a good choice for fans of Lee's The Agency: A Spy in the House (BCCB 4/10) looking for a lighter read that still has a bit of heft and high-stakes magic.