This is a marvelously gothic gem of a book. I bought it a couple years ago, I think the title and description appealed to me, and tossed it on the shelf and that was it. Until I saw a very enticing blog review of it (sorry, I forgot where. I tend to forget things like that) and decided to read it for myself. It was deliciously creepy, delightfully wicked, and tartly sweet. We begin with the Lady Lamorna, a wicked sorceress, who has decided she needs a new dress - and not just any new dress, a marvelous new dress decorated with skulls. Unfortunately, even a powerful sorceress needs money when she's going to buy a marvelous velvet dress with skulls from the Ancient Crones. Enter a wicked plan, complete with princes and frogs, an abused but courageous Trueheart, and a very wicked stepsister indeed. Every sentence of this story is perfectly crafted and perfectly positioned to create an amusingly creepy story with a satisfying ending and memorable characters.
and then there just had to be a sequel. *mutter* remember what I said earlier about my desire to whap people over the heads with their sequels? Well, this one falls into whapping category. There's no growth in the main characters, just additions of quirky but unmemorable characters to the cast. There's a different plot, but the ending is too pat and the main characters from Robe feel like they're there for the series, not to perform any specific role. It feels as though the author tried to recreate the magic of Robe of Skulls, but it just didn't work.
and now I'm grumpy. Whap!
Verdict: I will happily recommend Robe to all and sundry, but I don't plan to continue the series.
Robe of skulls
ISBN: 978-0763635312; Published July 2008 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library
Bag of bones
ISBN: 076364255X; Published July 2009 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library