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The Gilded Lily is a mystery novel that includes characters from Swift's first novel. However, you don't have to read the first novel to understand what's happening in The Gilded Lily. There are hints of events that happened in The Lady's Slipper, but it isn't key to the story told in "Lily."
My favorite part of this novel were the two main characters, Ella and Sadie. Their personalities are richly drawn and you can feel them struggle to make it in the slums of London with little money. I was particularly drawn to Sadie. She was a hard worker and empathetic to everyone around her. She wanted to do what was right, but her sister, Ella, was a bit of a scamp who lead Sadie astray many times. Honestly, I wish the story had been focused more on Sadie. However, Ella's plight and actions really were the driving force behind the plot and gave purpose to Sadie's actions and reactions. I also had a soft spot in my heart for Dennis, the young boy that Sadie and Ella rented an apartment from. He was a true gentleman to Sadie and a reader who shared his love of stories with Sadie.
The rich characters were a huge plus for a mystery plot that was quite predictable. The girls' adventures in the city as they tried to avoid trouble and stay under the radar kept me reading until the end. This is a mystery novel where everything does get tied up neatly in the end which did get a bit saccharine for me after living on the streets with Ella and Sadie for 400+ pages.
Overall, I would give The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift a thumbs up. The streets of London and the characters create an atmosphere that draws you in and won't let you go until the final page is turned.