Marit Olsen is alone in the world. Her father died in an accident in the wealthy Vestergaard family’s mines. The Firn, an icy buildup in the veins that freezes a body from the inside as a result of the overuse of magic, claimed her sister not long after. Like her sister, Marit has magic; Marit’s gives her a connection to fabric, thread and sewing. She can embroider a dress in one night that would take an expert seamstress weeks. But like all magic users, Marit uses her gift sparingly for fear of the Firn.
On the cusp of aging out of the orphanage, Marit is determined to look out for Eve, a younger girl with a gift for ballet who has become like a little sister to her. When Eve is adopted by Helene Vestergaard, Marit manages to obtain a place as a seamstress in the Vestergaard household. As she settles in among the staff, she realizes they all have magical abilities that they use often. While Eve adjusts to a life of wealth and privilege, Marit uncovers new information about her father’s accident with the help of her new friends, siblings Liljan and Jakob. If her father’s death wasn’t an accident, could the Vestergaards have been involved? Is Eve in danger? Marit will risk it all, including the Firn, to ensure that her chosen family is safe.
Emily Bain Murphy’s second novel is an assured blend of historical fiction and fantasy, with satisfyingly researched details appearing alongside a simple but powerful system of magic. The story includes a slow-burning romance, but Marit’s prickly enemies-to-friends relationship with another household servant is even more compelling. Most satisfying is the book’s villain, an occasional narrator whose identity is revealed in time. Murphy has created a more nuanced villain than is usually attempted in YA fantasy, with valid (yet misguided) goals and easily understandable, even sympathetic motivations.
Marit’s struggle to find and protect her found family, the lush and hygge-filled Scandinavian surroundings and the thrilling showdown with a complex villain make Splinters of Scarlet a finely woven tale perfect for historical fiction and fantasy readers alike.