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In her first novel, Wilce imagines a living castle—a kind of blending of Gormenghast and Hogwarts—and she breathes life into her tale with a wry sense of humor. The book opens as narrator Flora Fyrdraaca, the heroine of the title, is about to turn 14, a rite of passage that qualifies her to enter military training. She spends her days mostly alone inside her family's castle, Crackpot Hall. Its 11,000 rooms have started to decay since Flora's mother, the Warlord's Commanding General, fired the magical Butler. Flora's father "only comes out of his Eyrie when the booze and cigarillos run out." Rushing to avoid being late to school, Flora takes the forbidden Elevator and ends up lost within her home—and meets the banished magical Butler, Valefor, in a forgotten library. Valefor convinces Flora to give him some of her "Anima," her "magickal essence," and he grows stronger. The plot detours into a convoluted back story about warring kingdoms; this leads to the tale of the "Dainty Pirate," whom Flora and her friend Udo then rescue from the gallows. The pirate warns Flora that Valefor is actually sucking her "Will" away, and the two friends begin a hunt for a "Semiote Verb" that will restore Flora's strength. Wilce takes the kitchen-sink approach to storytelling—at times the narrative borders on self-indulgent (e.g., "Oh ugh and disgusting and yucky-yuck"); hence some readers may feel that the book is overlong—though certainly good-natured and enjoyable. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.