The narrator of the book is the second sister, Jenica. She’s practical and business-minded, the sister who is most grounded in reality. It’s a little hard to understand, then, why the monthly visits to the Other Kingdom mean as much to her as they do to her more flighty sisters. Well, that’s not entirely fair. None of them are exactly flighty – just far from practical. Jena’s best friend is a frog with whom she converses, again something that just doesn’t quite fit with her sensible nature. Still, as the book progresses, Jena’s dreamy side increases to encompass true love, laying the more realistic problems aside for a moment.
The book does take place in Transylvania, but Juliet Marillier’s author’s note explains how she tried to focus on all of the vast folklore and mythology that this area has to offer. There is much beyond vampires and werewolves, folklore first popularized by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She does a wonderful job of drawing a contrast between the two (or three) worlds, while still showing how they overlap. Decisions made in the Other Kingdom have far-reaching consequences in the real world, both good and bad.
One can’t help but feel for Jena as she strives to keep her sisters safe, her father’s business running, and the household going despite the constant interference of her cousin, Cezar. It’s a lot for a fifteen-year-old to take on, and she handles it admirably, with spirit and fire, until the happy ending is reached.
The world Marillier creates is convincing and intriguing. After all, who wouldn’t want to dance with a gentlemanly dwarf in the light of a full moon?