Liza had a sister once.
But that sister was born with glass-clear hair, the sign of magic. Father did what had to be done. Liza’s sister was reduced to cracked bones in the moonlight. In the world after the War, the great battle in which the Fey were destroyed, but which left the Earth a treacherous place where the very trees seek the blood of men, hard decisions must be made and enforced.
Then Liza starts to see things. Knowing she is cursed with a mage-gift she flees her village, unwilling to die, but equally unwilling to cause the destruction and death that inevitably follows in the footsteps of magic. Yet what Liza discovers when she ventures out of her village is far from what she expected. The land is the same, equally as difficult and unyielding, but the people she meets are very different from those she knew in her own childhood. What is true? What is right? And, more importantly, does magic have to kill?
This is Janni Lee Simner’s first book for young adults, although she has several published novels for younger readers. The world-building here was fantastic. The exact details of the War and what went on were never spelled out, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps and come to his/her own conclusions about various repercussions. The magic and the ways in which it manifested were original and interesting. While I think that a single generation after the War it would be unlikely that words like “United States” had “no more meaning”, I greatly enjoyed the idea that it was set in a future world of our own. We see a lot of urban fairy tales these days; it’s doubly interesting to envision a future where the government (presumably) found out about that double life and felt moved to “protect” the world from the dangers inherent in a world of powerful magic-wielding faeries.
The characterization was well done, with the possible exception of the father, who was a little too one dimensional in his harshness. While his motivations in general were understandable, he was such an unlikeable person that it was hard to give his reasoning any significant weight. This wasn’t helped by the fact that all of the villagers seemed to think that he was wrong too, and just hadn’t gotten the courage to speak up. Personally, I think that many of the villagers – particularly the older members who clearly remembered the war – would have felt the same way. It is unfortunate that in too many cases fighting a war requires one to demonize the other side, in order to go forth with extreme measures in the name of “protection”. This was one of the major underlying themes of the book, so it’s surprising that only one character truly expressed this sentiment.
I can think of several teenagers who will absolutely love this book, and I look forward to seeing it find its place in in the “class of 2009” fantasy world.