The Star of Kazan
by Eva Ibbotson
Annika was abandoned as an infant, in a little chapel in the mountains. Two domestic servants, Ellie and Sadie, found her during their day off, and brought her back to the big house in Vienna where they cooked and cleaned for three unmarried professors. Now, at age twelve, she is a loving, helpful girl who works hard around the house and whose imagination brings sparkle to the lives of her friends.
Then Annika unknowingly sets a train of events in motion, simply by showing kindness to a dying old lady. Suddenly a glamorous noblewoman named Edeltraut von Tannenberg appears at the professors home, with legal documents proving that she is Annikas mother, and begging her to come back with her to live at her castle in northern Germany.
At first this seems to be the fulfillment of Annikas girlhood dreams. But not everything at the manor of Spittal is as it should be. Annika misses the work, the warmth of Ellies kitchen, the love and companionship of her adopted family and friends. She finds herself colder and hungrier than she ever dreamed of being, in a crumbling castle in a cold, forbidding swamp. Strange things are going on problems and plans that no one will tell Annika about.
The sharp divide between noble and common families puts Annika in an agonizing position, forbidden to do the work and go to the parts of the house she is most used to, and forced into unexpected relationships. She suddenly has a half-brother who dreams of going to military school and who is ruthless to servants and animals; and she also finds joy in the companionship of a half-Gypsy stable boy, a three-legged dog, and a very special horse.
But then things begin to unravel at terrifying speed. The dog finds something in the lake that Annika last saw at the death bed of an old lady in Vienna...the stable boy, falsely accused of theft, runs away with her half-brothers horse...and just as clues to a ruthless conspiracy begin coming to light, Annika is shipped away to a dreadful school from which no escape seems possible. Saving her will require the combined cleverness and daring of all of Annikas friends in Vienna, regardless of their social class. Yet even if they do get her out of that hellish school, how can they keep her safe from her own mother?
Inspired by the authors childhood memories of Vienna, this book is a rich, thrilling, romantic adventure full of varied scenery, memorable people, historical color, and good old-fashioned suspense. The classic plotline of a poor, innocent child being done out of a fortune by a conniving adult has worked in so many ways from Charles Dickens to Joan Aiken. And now, in the hands of the author of Journey to the River Sea and The Haunting of Granite Falls, it is revived in a new form. Crisp dialogue, fast-paced action, the looming threat of well-known historical events, and characters who dare to cross the sacred line between high-born and low-born, make this story a modern gem, set in the engaging, magical world of pre-World War Vienna.
Recommended Age: 10+
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