Adela would rather work in the garden than participate in her stepmother Cecile's fancy plans, but when an invitation arrives for Lady Hortensia's garden party, she really wants to go so that she can get some plants. Garth, the gardener, joins the group going, along with Cecile's sister Marguerite. Once there, however, Adela is impressed by the gardens but horrified by how Hortensia treats people. She bewitches Garth so that he no longer seems to like Marguerite-- he is in love with Hortensia, as are many of her male servants. When Adela sees Marguerite turned into a Daisy, and sees Hortensia take her jewelry, she knows that the magic that has long been outlawed in the kingdom is at play. She takes consul with a talking magpie, Krazo, and he admits to helping Hortensia with her evil plans. Krazo thinks the secret to Hortensia's magic is buried in a silver box in the garden, and once all of her companions have been enchanted, Adela finds the box and manages to kill Hortensia and break everyone free from her spell. The only problem remains that Adela has fallen in love with Krazo, who was turned into a magpie because he attempted to steal from Hortensia. When the bag of jewels disappears on the way home, Adela fears that Krazo will not be able to break free of his former ways. Will he come to her debut ball? And what is his true nature-- thief or not?
Adela was a fun anti-princess; she wanted to work in the garden, have a life instead of get married, and has this great line "I don't care what I look like. I care about what I do." (page 158) How many times have I chanted "useful, not decorative" to my own children? The setting is a standard medieval royal one, which children seem to really like, and Adela is 17, which makes her even more intriguing as a princess. Hortensia's magic is pretty gruesome, if you think about people living as flowers for decades, but isn't too scary for younger readers. The garden details are also very vivid.
For some I was under the impression that Adela was younger, but her age makes the love plot make a little more sense. I had written this one off as just another cheesy kid's fairytale, but I think I may have to give it a chance :]