Things go spectacularly bad for Flora and Udo. They make plans, that fail or semi-fail. One mess leads to another to the point that Flora wants to give up. Of course, her Will is being siphoned so it makes sense she has some really low moments. Udo picks her up and supports her until she finds the courage to face the mess she has made as well as the unforeseen consequences. Even her dad tries to help in his own crazy way. Messages range from resilience to taking responsibility, to parents insisting their children tell the truth but then hiding it from them to protect them, to figuring out what you want to do in life and having the courage to tell an adult.
Flora's alter ego is Nini Mo, a famous Ranger, whose adventures were published in yellowback novels, many owned by Flora. They resemble the Penny dreadfuls mass produced in the UK during the 1800s. Nini Mo wrestles with problems in a bull-headed, calm fashion as nothing is too massive for this hero to overcome. Flora quotes Nini Mo when she is in a tangle or on the verge of a meltdown. This reminded me of "Utterly Me, Clarice Bean" by Lauren Child where Clarice has an alter ego detective and the boy who wants to be a knight but becomes a spy in Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan.
Some great lines had me hooting, "Persistence may be good for a general, but it is not such a happy quality in a mother." "Valefor sniffed. 'That's awful tripe, you know [refering to Nini Mo novel Flora's reading]. You should read something more educational. I have a lovely book on eschatological extensions and their role in im-manentizing the-'" Flora describes the polished floors of the building where her mother works: "It's perfect for sliding down if you sit on a file folder, but if someone opens a door while you are flying it's off to the Post Hospital and ten stitches in your grape. Believe me, I know whereof I speak."
I wasn't quite sure by the end where Flora's magical words were coming from. At first I thought it was Valefor, but it is not really explained. Also, the house is alive at the start, but then the focus shifts to the butler's magic. The Houses of the city have power with an Adept or magical entity that is tapped into that power. The Adept is controlled by the owner of the House, but seems to vary in Houses and I'm not sure who controls the "live" house. The Bilskinir House lost its owner so the Adept controls it. Or does it? It wasn't clear to me what was happening in that house. There is a sequel that will probably hash out my questions.
In Flora's culture women are equal with men. Flora is not beautiful and is slightly plump, but it makes her no less appealing than some svelte character. No one questions that mom is the General. Flora also takes responsibility for her actions when things fall apart on her. Udo loves fashion and is not condescended to by others and Valefor tells Flora he'll become a girl if she wants. The periodic neutralizing of genders was interesting. I may not always know whereof I speak, but me thinks this novel is worth noting. Oye.