The Who: Amy Snow, who is abandoned as an infant, and Aurelia Vennaway, the young heiress who saves her from freezing to death.
The What: Despite the difference in their ages and social standings (and the objections of Aurelia's parents), Amy grows up with Aurelia at Hatville Court and becomes her friend and companion. But then Aurelia gets sick and dies. Her parents, Lord and Lady Vennaway, unceremoniously dismiss Amy from Hatville Court, ordering her never to return. But Aurelia planned for this eventuality and left Amy a very different legacy:
"...this is the start of my last treasure hunt for you. Think of my letters as the clues--each will lead on to the next. I have planned for my story to unfold just a little at a time, with every letter taking you farther from Hatville, farther from the ignominy of your treatment there: safer and stronger and freer....Our friendship is precious and I hope that you will never regret it, but it kept you a prisoner also, tied to this house and dependent on me. Now you can fly free, little bird! And I will help you, for you have helped me, more than you will ever know."So begins Amy Snow's journey. Aurelia's treasure hunt will take her across England, leading her to new friends, hidden secrets, and unexpected truths. I liked the people she met more than I did her search to uncover the secrets of Aurelia's past; I wish she could have spent more time with each of them, but she always had to move on to the next clue. Still, there are great characters in this book. Amy herself is very naive and young when she leaves Hatville Court, and I have to confess that it took me several chapters to warm up to her. But both she and the story get better as they go along. The only problem I had with this novel was the uneven pacing: sometimes I got really caught up in the narrative and the pages just flew by, but there were other moments when I felt like the story dragged. Overall, though, it's an excellent read with a fun premise. I mean, who doesn't love a well-plotted treasure hunt?