I have been completely taken in by a new-to-me author. In the spring I won a copy of the book The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley.  Due to school and family I was unable to read it until just now. How sorry I am that I waited. Here’s the synopsis:

Unwanted at home, Molly goes to work for the king of Westria as a humble scullery maid. She arrives at the castle with no education, no manners, and a very disturbing secret: She sees visions, and those visions always come true.

One day, while she’s working in the king’s great hall, young Prince Alaric passes by. Molly finds him unbearably handsome—but also unbearably rude. But what does it really matter? She’ll probably never see him again.

In time Molly is promoted to polishing silver and is given a priceless royal treasure to work on: the king’s great ceremonial hand basin. But there’s something odd about it. The silver warms to her touch, a voice commands her to watch and listen, and then the visions appear. They tell the story of a dreaded curse that has stalked the royal family for years. There have already been deaths; soon there will be more.

As tragedy after tragedy strikes the royal family, Molly can’t help but wonder: Will the beautiful Alaric be next? Together with her friends Tobias and Winifred, Molly must protect the prince and destroy the curse. Could a less likely champion be found to save the kingdom of Westria?

With my favourite genre being historical fiction, I was thrilled to find a book for late elementary and middle school readers that showed promise. My daughter, who is twelve, read the book shortly after it arrived and enjoyed it – quite a feat as it is very different from the wizard books she loves.

The Silver Bowl is set in medieval/renaissance Europe where kings rule and kingdoms struggle to maintain peace.  Molly and Tobias are believable and refreshing in their use of common sense and thinking things through before acting. They are smart, clever and compassionate. The plot is so well paced that the reader is carried along in the adventure, given time to breathe, make a prediction, and then start running once again to keep up with the action. What I enjoyed most was the unpredictability of the storyline. There was nothing formulaic about this adventure and there were a couple of points where I was caught off guard. Well done!

This book will find a home on my classroom bookshelf and I can see it becoming a favourite read-aloud to children for years to come. I am eager to read the many more books by Diane Stanley and implementing them into the curriculum and study of the many artists and historical figures she has brought to life. The next adventure with Molly and Tobias in The Cup and The Crown is coming Fall 2012. Stay tuned.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.