By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Elodie is on her way, by herself, to the city of Two Castles with the hopes of apprenticing to the mansioners (actors), although her parents think she is off to become a weaver. Two Castles boasts an ogre who lives in one castle, a dragon, and a king and princess, as well as many many cats. But when Elodie finds that her grand plans of becoming a mansioner apprentice are dashed, the dragon Meenore offers to take her on as an assistant. And almost immediately, Elodie and Meenore are visited by the ogre himself, Count Jonty Um, whom Meenore has deduced is in danger of his life from the townsfolk and perhaps others. The dragon sends Elodie as a servant to the count's castle in hopes that her eyes and ears may pick up clues to who may wish the count harm. Elodie is quickly impressed by the kindness of Count Jonty Um and his ability to shapeshift into other animals so when the king announces the princess is to marry the count, she is pleased for him. But when he is forced at a feast to shift into a mouse and the cats chase him, Elodie fears the worst. Is the count still alive? And who signaled the normally well-trained cats to attack? Elodie, with the help of Meenore, try their best to solve the mystery, but it may cost one of them their life. A fantasy-mystery hybrid that is highly enjoyable and, one hopes, is the start of a series of cases to solve.