Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb

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Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A tale of dark deeds and magic set in the beautiful and rather scary city of Venice.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Orchard
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408304495

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The cover of this book has lots of pretty gold stars and a girl with a cute round face, but don't be fooled: while young girls will love all the magic and adventure, there is a fair amount of darkness in this third book in the Rose series. A magical mask has been stolen by an evil magician, and if he wears it in Venice, on the first Sunday of the New Year, he will gain enormous power. Needless to say Rose and the other members of the household set off to prevent this.

It is a curious household, and Holly Webb has created some interesting characters here. There is Mr Fountain himself, Chief Magical Counsellor to the Treasury, an alchemist and a close advisor to the King. He has a magical apprentice, Freddie, and a rather spoiled daughter, Bella. Gus, his talking cat, is immensely wise and practical, and almost as essential to the plot as he considers himself to be. One quite original aspect of the series is the fact that Rose is merely a servant. She came from the orphanage to work in the house, and it was after her arrival that her magical powers were discovered. This is a world with many similarities to nineteenth-century Britain, with all its prejudices and class consciousness, and while Rose is allowed to share Freddie's magic lessons, she still has to perform her duties as a housemaid, and get up before daybreak to light fires and scrub floors. Most of the other servants, not surprisingly, resent her being singled out, but fear her ability to perform spells.

The beginning of this book is rather slow, because there is such a lot of back story. On the positive side this means it is not necessary to have read the previous two books to enjoy this one, but it does require patience on the part of the reader. However, once you have ploughed through it, the book picks up. Rose is given a doll which comes alive, and is a crucial part of the denouement, and there is a charming and rather funny scene when Rose is sent an enormous dolls' house for Christmas by Princess Jane, whom she met in book two. Rose's room, such as it is, is almost too small for a bed, never mind the huge plaything, and there is the problem of where to store the gift. The whole incident serves to highlight, once again, the gulf between the social classes at the time.

Such concerns are forgotten when they arrive in Venice. The atmosphere in this part of the book matches the city perfectly. At the best of times Venice is a mysterious and rather eerie place, with its mists and waterways, and Rose and the Magician's Mask is not the first book to make good use of its delight in masked balls and intrigue. When magic – much of it evil – is added to the mix, the place becomes quite terrifying. There is one brief but horrible scene when Rose tries to unmask a young street urchin who has been sent to attack her; the children have to walk through dank subterranean corridors in their attempt to prevent a dreadful deed; Mr Fountain disappears, and the Duke seems unwilling to believe their warnings of danger. And what does the strange old lady know about Rose's parents?

All in all this is a delightful book, and young girls will enjoy being thrilled and scared by Rose's adventures. If they have not already met her they will surely wish to go back to book one and the beginning of her adventures, and they will be impatient for book four, the final one in the series.

Another magical tale with a historical setting is A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis. Holly Webb has also written for younger readers: try the Molly's Magic series, which includes The Invisible Bunny, The Secret Pony, The Wish Puppy and The Witch's Kitten.

Buy Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb at

Buy Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rose and the Magician's Mask by Holly Webb at


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