From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9–Bath deals with a familiar fairy-tale theme: the discovery of noble lineage in a maidservant. His treatment, however, is quirky, funny, and rife with social satire; his style, full of puns, similes, alliteration, and just the right tone of tongue-in-cheek pomposity, is delightful. The setting is the Barony of Cant, a land so small that it is lost in the creases of every map. While the Cantlings live as though it were long ago, the time is actually contemporary, and the heroine wears T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers procured from the American Mission. This juxtaposition of medieval and contemporary fuels much of the novel's humor. Eleven-year-old Lucy Wickwright, an orphan, tends the Baron's mischievous daughter. Although Pauline, who follows whims such as catapulting soggy underwear at the spectators of an execution, is difficult to manage, the girls are best friends. Lucy unwittingly gets caught up as a spy in the Cause: the fight against chewing gum, which the nobles import at great expense to the taxpayers. On his deathbed, the Baron confesses that Lucy is his illegitimate child and heir to the throne, throwing the land into chaos and Pauline into the dungeon. Lucy rescues her and the girls mend the bad feelings brought on by their father's admission. The sisters, both fugitives, escape to safety in an ending teasingly open-ended enough for a sequel.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Gr. 5-9. Travel in the eccentric, isolated Barony of Cant is exclusively by "foot or hoof or sail"; fashions from 150 years ago are "considered daringly modern"; and chewing gum, a luxury derisively termed "the cud" by enemies of the nobility, threatens to foment a civil war. Humble maidservant Lucy Wickwright agrees to spy for the anti-gum contingent, hoping to protect her mistress (the baronial heiress) from revolutionaries who wish her ill. Instead, Lucy exposes a secret that abruptly alters her relationship to Pauline von Cant, putting both in grave danger. Lucy's enduring devotion to Pauline isn't entirely convincing in light of the latter's alternately imperious and whiny behavior. However, the girls' refusal to play into the hands of corrupt grown-ups makes for a decidedly rousing story, with first-time novelist Bath's mock-erudite, footnote-studded narrative style striking a hilarious contrast with the mischief-making that frequently occurs alongside the heroism. An inconclusive ending suggests that the fate of this seductively quirky, pinprick of a kingdom may not be left entirely to readers' imaginations. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved