There is one last alternative, although she shudders to consider it. The spirit of an old washerwoman lives by the river. Called the Bean-Nighe, she can grant great wishes but they come with terrible prices. With misgivings, Ella goes to her for help and is surprised by the mildness of the spirit's price: just a drop of blood sacrificed to the loom from time to time. In exchange, Ella receives ample raw materials and begins to get noticed for her amazing and beguiling products. But any deal with the spirits is never so simple and Ella finds that it is she herself who has been beguiled.
A rich atmospheric tale of magic, based loosely on Celtic mythology, but infused with some righteous feminism and radical egalitarianism. Ella is a very practical protagonist with a pragmatic understanding of her economic situation and great entrepreneurial spirit. More importantly, I truly enjoyed Panin's riff on the role of fashion as literal magic. Her overall message that is a world rules by powerful men, a woman has to flaunt whatever talents they possess may strike some readers as cynical, but it makes for a compelling character. The other real problem that nagged at me was how naïve Ella is for thinking she can trick enough people to get what she wants. For such a practical young woman, her hubris seems out of character.
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