cover image Iron Hearted Violet

Iron Hearted Violet

Kelly Barnhill, illus. by Iacopo Bruno. Little, Brown, $16.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-05673-1

Barnhill (The Mostly True Story of Jack) creates a splendid fantasy around a story’s power to change the world. Princess Violet deeply loves reading and telling tales of all sorts, even ones about beautiful and graceful princesses—which she is not. She is fascinated when a strange book and magical painting discovered in a hidden room of the castle reveal the forbidden story of a banished god, the Nybbas. Left to her own devices, 13-year-old Violet doesn’t realize the danger: the book is true, she has become part of its unfinished story, and the big question is whether Violet will be the villain or the heroine. Layered and complex, Barnhill’s story brings a modern feel to age-old fairy tale tropes while recognizing that an offhand remark can cause deep and lasting damage. Messages about self-esteem, acceptance, and the power of the heart may feel heavy to seasoned readers, but those same positive themes, the trim chapter lengths, and Barnhill’s nimble prose make this a winning choice for before-bedtime readalouds. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)