A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this, but it's no Ella Enchanted. Lodie (sorry, Elodie) is from a poor family on the island of Lahnt - so poor that they don't have money for her to purchase an apprenticeship. They scrape together enough to buy her passage to Two Castles, the capital city. There, Elodie will try for a free apprenticeship, a 10-year stint, as a mansioner (what this society calls a traveling actor). During the journey, she meets Goodwife Celeste, who appears to take an interest in her well-being. On land, she meets Master Theil, a cat trainer (if only those really existed!) and Dess, who heals animals.
It turns out that free apprenticeships have been banned, so Lodie tries to get a 15-year one... to no avail. Somehow, however, she's been taken under the wing - literally - of Mastress Meenore, a dragon. IT offers her a place to stay and the role of assistant. One of the Mastresses clients is His Lordship, Count Jonty Um, an ogre, who is missing his faithful dog. Sent to help find the dog, Lodie finds her way around his castle; on her first night, she meets Princess Renn, the ogre's financee.
The rest of the story includes poisoning, faithful and faithless friends, shape-shifting, changing public opinion, and lots of toasted bread and cheese on skewers. Whodunnit isn't as important as why, and I was a little disappointed in the outcome of that plot. Still, fans of Ms. Levine will forgive that.
ARC provided by publisher.
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