Review posted August 31, 2011.
Harper, 2011. 307 pages.
I read this book during the 2011 48-Hour Book Challenge, and completely loved it. It helped make the challenge a beautiful experience.
The Silver Bowl is traditional fantasy, but with a very unusual plot. You won't know what to expect, and you will be enchanted and delighted with the story.
Molly is the seventh child of a poor man with a mad wife, so she's sent away to work at the castle when she's only seven. Her mother guesses why Molly is "troublesome," because she gets visions like Molly's. Molly's mother is on her deathbed, but she gives Molly a necklace her father made, and some advice:
Now listen to me and remember what I say: when these things happen in the future, try not to draw back in horror and surprise, or to cry out. It's natural to be frightened, I know, and it may be that you haven't the skill to hide it. If that is the case, then you must spin some tale. Say a spider bit you or that you are prone to fits. But whatever you do, don't tell anyone the truth.
Molly means to follow her mother's advice. But then she's set to polishing a beautiful silver bowl, and the bowl gives her visions -- visions of a curse on the royal family, a curse about to strike. Who can Molly tell? Will anyone believe her? Can she save the king?
I love Molly's feisty character in this book. And the people she meets and makes friends with among the castle servants are well-fleshed-out, too. I especially like the Donkey Boy, Tobias. Here's the scene when Molly is new to the castle and meets Tobias:
I was put under the charge of a big girl named Bertha, who'd worked there for several years. She enjoyed ordering me about as though she were a duchess and I was her lowliest servant. Yet she was just a scullion, same as me, except that she was trusted to handle the fine and delicate things, while I attended to the pots and the spoons, and whatever could not be broken.
On my third day she happened to go to the privy, leaving some goblets on the sideboard waiting to be washed. They were made of fine crystal, etched with cunning designs and rimmed with gold -- worth a fortune I'm sure. I should never have touched them. But I thought to impress Bertha by showing how helpful I could be. Perhaps she would be kinder to me then. And so I picked up one with my soapy hands.
You've already guessed that I dropped it.
The donkey boy was standing in the doorway. His hair was in his eyes, his nose ran, and his mouth hung open. Naturally, I took him for a dimwit. Never did I dream he could be quick.
But quick he was. He saw the goblet fall; and suddenly there he was, upon his knees, hands outstretched. He caught it before it hit the ground, lost his balance, rolled over onto his side, then onto his back, all the while holding it safely aloft. At last he rose to his feet again and handed it back to me -- after which, having spoken nary a word, he returned to his place by the door.
This is a beautiful book about a little servant girl who tries to save the kingdom.