The second book in Holly Webb's darkly magical series for readers aged 9 and up - join the 85,000 readers who have fallen in love with Rose's world!
Turning the worn pages of her spell book, Rose can't believe how much her life has changed. Once a poor orphan, and now an apprentice to the King's chief magician!
But when the country's beloved Princess vanishes, everything changes. As rumours of dark magic fly through the city, the King asks Rose for help. She must find the missing Princess - before all is lost.
Discover more by Holly Webb with her Lily and Magical Venice series - also filled with magical adventures.
About the Author
Holly Webb lives in Reading with her husband, three children, and three demanding cats. She started writing eleven years ago while working as a children's books editor. She now writes full-time, and is known for her wonderful writing filled with animals, magic and adventure. For Orchard she has written three series: Rose, Lily, and Magical Venice. Holly's website is: www.holly-webb.com
Read an Excerpt
Enjoying the quiet, Rose leaned against the window, staring out at the last few browning leaves of the wisteria that climbed up the wall and feeling the smooth chill of the glass against her cheek.
She jumped as a soft, insistent white head butted against her arm, and Gus squirmed into her lap, kneading her apron to the right consistency with determined paws.
"It's getting colder," he remarked, settling down at last. "I can smell snow."
Rose blinked at him, surprised. "Do you think so? It's only October. Isn't it a bit early for snow?"
Gus wriggled onto his back and yawned, showing a bright pink tongue and shark-like teeth. His stomach was round and soft and tufty, framed by delicately hanging paws. Rose was tempted to stroke it but suspected that Gus might claw her for being overly familiar.
"You can if you like," he purred, opening his orange eye for a moment. "I'm in a tolerant mood."
Rose stroked one of the velvet paws with the back of her hand instead and sighed.
"What's the matter?" Gus asked, opening the blue eye this time, just for a second.
"Just tired..." Rose murmured.
Gus sniffed irritably and opened both eyes to glare at her. "Well, it's entirely your own fault for being so ridiculously stubborn. Why you persist in working as a housemaid and trying to be a magician's apprentice at the same time is completely beyond me. You have to choose one or the other."
Rose didn't answer. He'd said it several times, and today she felt weary enough to wonder if he was actually right. He quite often was, having a cat's natural cunning coupled with a hefty dollop of magic. But it still seemed odd, being advised by a cat.
"You see! I was right," Gus mewed triumphantly, now standing on her lap with his front paws resting against the glass.
Rose, who had been staring out the window but not actually looking, shook herself and gazed out at the trees in the square's garden. The color had bled out of the sky, and fat white snowflakes were swirling slowly down.
"It's snowing!" Freddie burst into the room, flinging the door open with a bang. "Do you see? Really snowing. And it's cold enough to stick."
Rose looked at him in surprise. His dark eyes were glittering with excitement, and his cheeks were flushed, as though he'd raced up the stairs. It was only snow, and Rose didn't think she liked it all that much. It was beautiful but somehow menacing too-the falling flakes had a horrid inevitability about them, as though they would keep falling whatever happened and smother anything that tried to stop them. Rose shook herself crossly. This was nonsense. It was snow. Just weather.
"Aren't you pleased?" Freddie asked her, frowning slightly. "It's snowing!" The frown disappeared as he said the word, as if he couldn't mention snow without grinning.
Rose watched him dubiously as he pressed his palms against the window, gazing hungrily out at the dancing feathers of snow. Why was he so excited? It snowed every year, as far as she knew. For an orphanage brat, snow didn't mean treats. It just meant that your dormitory was so cold you climbed into bed with the girls next to you, so you could shiver together. And the washing water froze. When the orphans walked to church in snow, no one threw snowballs; they just got wet feet, as the dirty slush seeped through their patched boots. She supposed this was the difference. For Freddie, snow probably meant snow fights and sledding and riding out to the country to skate on a beautiful frozen lake. He probably came home and had cocoa afterward too.
"It looks very cold," Rose told him rather primly, and he shook his head.
"Honestly, Rose, you really are the most dreadful wet blanket," Freddie murmured dismissively as he watched the snowflakes, unable to tear himself away.
Rose smiled. Sometimes it annoyed her that Freddie had no idea how lucky he was, how privileged. But it wasn't actually his fault. He just happened to have been born that way-to a family with a long history of magic. And money. Just as she happened to have been born to a family so poor they couldn't keep her. Or maybe not a family-she didn't know. Perhaps just a girl on her own, a girl who'd found an old fish basket somewhere and used it to shelter the baby she was abandoning in the churchyard.
When she wasn't exhausted, Rose felt privileged too. She had been taken away from the orphanage at a far younger age than most the girls, to be trained as a housemaid in the London residence of Mr. Aloysius Fountain, Chief Magical Counselor to the Treasury. Rose loved it. She had dreamed of this-a proper job, no more charity, but actually earning her own living. Then she had discovered that she was a little bit magical too, and everything had changed all over again.
It seemed odd that two people with such different childhoods should end up as apprentices together. Rose wasn't on the same social scale as Freddie, of course. Most probably she never would be. But she was better at a lot of the magic than he was. That was hard to believe too. It almost certainly meant that at least one of her unknown parents had been a magician. Since Mr. Fountain had gently pointed this out in their first magic lesson, Rose had thought about her parents far more than she ever had before. She knew something about them now-or one of them, at least. Before, all she'd known was a possible connection with fish. Having inherited her magic was far more interesting than having inherited fish.
She had never daydreamed about her parents back at the orphanage, as so many of her friends did. No, far better to rely on herself, as she always had. She shouldn't waste time wondering; she would never know the answers anyway. Unless she could divine them somehow, of course. One of her new powers was making strange pictures appear on shiny surfaces. Some of the images were true, and some were...Rose wasn't quite sure what. Perhaps they all had some sort of truth in them, or they wouldn't come to her.
Could she see her parents? If she tried hard enough, found the right place to look? Did she even want to? Rose wasn't sure she wanted to know why they'd left her on the war memorial. What if they just hadn't liked her very much? Or something awful had happened to them?
But the more Rose found out about her own magic, the more intriguing her family history was becoming. Left alone in Mr. Fountain's workroom, she'd found herself staring at mirrors, silver bowls, that strange mother-of-pearl sheet...She knew she could see in all of them if she could only bring herself to try.
"I wish he'd hurry up. I want to go out before it gets dark. Where is he, Rose? Do you know? Rose!" Freddie's voice grew sharp, and Rose turned away from the mesmerizing snowflakes with a guilty start.
"Where is Mr. Fountain?" Freddie demanded impatiently. "It's twenty minutes past three. What's he doing? Come on, Rose, down in the kitchens you know everything! Where is he?"
"He had a lunch guest, someone from the palace. Miss Bridges was panicking, and me and Bill had to polish all the silver yesterday. She checked. Even the bits we never use, like that strange cup with the mustache on it." Rose sounded disgruntled. Bill, the apprentice footman who did all the odd jobs around the house, had confided to her on her first day that although they were supposed to polish all the silver every week, he never did, except on very special occasions. Visitors from the palace, even if not actually royalty themselves, clearly had to be treated like royalty, and that meant everything needed to be shiny.
Freddie looked thoughtful. "I wonder who it is. My cousin Raphael is an equerry at the palace, so I know some of the staff."
Rose gazed at him wide-eyed. "Your cousin works for the king? What's an equerry?"
Freddie sniffed. "An odd-job man, judging by Raphael. But he's a bit of an idiot. In a dream world all the time, and he isn't even a magician. He's from my mother's side of the family."
Rose couldn't help giggling. Someone that Freddie thought was stupid would have to be monumentally silly. Freddie fell down flights of stairs on purpose to see if he could fly. (He had, almost, but it was still a stupid thing to do. He said it was in the spirit of scientific inquiry and scientists had to be willing to take risks. Rose just thought he was bacon brained.) But Freddie had raised an interesting point.
"So, your mother's not a magician, then?" she asked curiously. "Only your father?"
"Yes." Freddie smiled. "But Mama loves magic. My father courted her by making roses grow out of the carpet of my grandparents' drawing room, and she accepted his proposal on the spot. Not that she might have turned him down," he hastened to add. "Papa has very handsome side whiskers."
Rose couldn't stop laughing. She imagined Freddie's father rather like Freddie, smooth and small and blond, but with luxuriant muttonchop whiskers.
"Stop it, Rose! I can hear Fountain coming." Freddie frowned at her, still giggling in the window seat, and shook his head disgustedly.
Rose sat up and tried to take deep breaths, but the image of a furry Freddie wouldn't go away. At last, the turning of the door handle distracted her enough, and she jumped up excitedly. She adored their magic lessons, however tired she was, and Mr. Fountain had promised to teach Freddie and Rose a real spell today. Rose dug her fingernails into her palms. She wanted to be as calm and collected as Freddie, who'd rather be out throwing snowballs than learning magic, but she could hardly stand still. She could smell Mr. Fountain, she suddenly realized, as the door opened. A mixture of cigar smoke, very dear eau de cologne, and an added tang of powerful, lethal, wonderful magic...
What People are Saying About This
"A substantial novel that will appeal to fantasy/magic fans." —School Librarian
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the second book in the Rose series and it is just as good as the first. Rose is starting her apprenticeship lessons with Mr. Fountain and Freddie, while still working as a servant. The other servants don't trust magic and are leery of Rose. Suspicious things are happening in the city and the entire kingdom blames magic, but Rose and her friends will do whatever it takes to keep a princess from being kidnapped. Just as in the first book, I loved the friendships that sprang up between Rose and the other characters. That was one of my favorite parts of the book. Not all the characters were fond of Rose, and that added to the complexity of her situation. However, she has a stalwart (if self-absorbed) friend in both Freddie and Bella. Bill also remains a source of solid friendship in this book. This installment is not nearly as dark as the first, and I liked that. The author kept all the beautiful bits of magic and adventure from the first story, while making it much less disturbing. The imagery is lovely. I got caught up in this world of English royalty, magic, and sinister plots. I can't wait to see what happens next. Highly recommended for fans of magic and mystery! Content: Some violence and bullying, but still very clean.