Barbery follows up The Elegance of the Hedgehog, an international phenomenon, with a gauzy, glimmering fantasy that has also drawn worldwide acclaim. Cutting across a meadow, a little girl named Maria senses a presence and, as snow begins falling, is led into the forest by a creature that blends attributes of horse, man, and wild boar and ends up with four old women in an isolated village in Burgundy. High in the mountains in Abruzzo, young Clara, who lives with a country priest and his illiterate housekeeper, demonstrates such a profound, almost mystical capacity for music that she is sent to Rome to study. In fact, these two gifted girls will soon be communing with a world beyond ours as they help fight a battle against the darkness.
VERDICT The magical frame and lush loveliness of the writing might be oversweet for some readers, but many fans of both Barbery and fantasy from writers like Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen will be enchanted.