Alfreda and her cousin and teacher, Marta, visit Alfreda's home for the birth of Alfreda's new sister--and during this visit, Alfreda has an alarming and exhilarating encounter with a unicorn. As exciting and rewarding as this is, Marta is furious with the unicorn; it will make Alfreda far more visible to malignant forces. She needs more protection than she can currently provide for herself, and needs to fill the gap in her education where a knowledge of ritual magic should be.
Marta arranges for her to become a student at the Windward School, in faraway New York. The head of the school, Professor Livingston, is another of Alfreda's cousins, and she, Marta, and her mother will all trade services to the school to cover the cost of her tuition. Alfreda's share of this will be teaching the beginning herbal magic class.
Allie gets a bit of a break in this outing. Her challenges here are not vampires, werewolves, or evil sorcerers planning to steal her magic. One might almost say they're a bit more age-appropriate: going away to school for the first time, getting to know young people of very different backgrounds from her own, learning the social rules of a larger society, and studying subjects Marta and her mother couldn't teach her themselves. Indoor sanitary facilities and a version of hot and cold running water are new experiences for her. So is cooking as punishment duty, and cooking with a crew that mostly has never cooked before--although some have been taught how to create dinner menus and direct kitchen staff.
Much of the adventure here is the adventure of boarding school with a magical twist, but there are other things going on in the background, and Allie can no more avoid trouble than she can avoid breathing. She's just far too intelligent, inquisitive, and brave, not to mention impetuous.
This is a lot of fun. Recommended.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author.