Mother Merry Chaos (actually Mother Superior Meredith Chase, but handyman Mr. Gongrafen misspelled the sign on her door) has decided to re-open the orphanage at Edgecliff Abbey after fifty years of closure, to provide a loving home for parentless children and a faith-based alternative to an overtaxed foster care system. However, not everyone is happy with the decision to re-open the orphanage: Child Services administrator Ophelia Arkham lobbied heavily against opening Edgecliff Abbey, and has subsequently assigned herself as Child Services liaison with the full intention of ensuring the orphanage’s failure. Wealthy industrialist Tiberius Crow has designs to buy the land for his corporation, and Mr. Crow is a man who is used to getting what he wants. And Edgecliff Abbey itself is a place with its own secrets, its own past …
Enter Mopsy, a strange little ten-year-old girl with no parents, no past, no memory, and one oddly-colored eye. She is sent to live at the orphanage, where she meets Elsbeth. Tall and pretty, Elsbeth is a wealthy heiress; or she would be, if her parents hadn’t been sent to lengthy prison terms for fraud. In the tradition of childhood stories everywhere, the Little Happy Friendship Fairy flies between them, and promptly bursts into flame: the two girls become instant mortal enemies. They are joined by the spirited Gretchen, a wild child who’d literally been raised by wolves; Kiku, a Japanese exchange student brought up by her uncle under the strict code of the Samurai; and Nephri, an Egyptian mummy who’d been secretly cloned at the University by graduate students who’d somehow gotten hold of the keys to the museum. Not exactly the model children Mother Merry was expecting, but in any case, say hello to the Edgecliff Girls.
Our little group of misfits finds life at the orphanage unendurable: Spartan accommodations, unbendable rules, terrible food, overbearing teachers, school bullies, a broken TV, terrible food (again), and an escalating feud between Mopsy and Elsbeth. Starved for entertainment, they scour the Abbey bookshelves and plow through reams of childish fairy tales until they find – the Storybook. There’s no title or author on the cover, and at first the pages appear blank, until you look at them just the right way. The Storybook begins in a magical Fairyland, with a kingdom under siege by an evil Sorcerer, but the girls soon discover it can be any story they want it to be. The book is an exhilarating escape from their dreary lives, and becomes so engrossing that the story sucks them in. Literally.
When the five girls find themselves inside the dangerous Swords-and-Sorcery world of the Storybook, they have to learn to work together to find their way back to the world they know: except, Elsbeth doesn’t want to go back. There’s nothing for her back at the orphanage – here in the Storybook, she could become the princess she always felt she deserved to be. And so, when the girls find a way back home, Elsbeth stays behind, becomes the princess she always wanted to be (complete with a handsome prince), and is all set to live happily-ever-after – on her own terms, of course. You see, Power is a drug that can go right to a young girl’s head. Instead of wearing pretty dresses and attending fancy balls and starring in grand parades, Elsbeth has her own vision of being Princess of Fairyland. The people of Fairyland will love their new princess – or else.
Back at Edgecliff Abbey, where things can’t possibly be any worse, things are, well, worse. With Elsbeth gone missing, Mrs. Arkham is calling for closure of the orphanage and the dismissal of Mother Merry. Mopsy overhears her making a deal with Mr. Crow about buying the former grounds of Edgecliff Abbey. And as for the remaining Edgecliff Girls, well, they’ll be separated, of course, and some state-run program or other might be found for them… or not.
Mopsy and the girls decide to take matters into their own little hands. Friends or enemies, the only family they have is each other; and as bad as it’s been, Edgecliff Abbey is their home, and they will defend this house! Hell hath no fury like a gang of ten-year-old girls with nothing to lose.
But first, they have to get Elsbeth back from the Storybook – whether the Storybook wants to give her back or not.
Watch out, Fairyland – the Edgecliff girls are going back in....!