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Tag Archives: High Fantasy
Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a high fantasy with a romance (not a typical one), set in an area much like Poland (where there is magic.) No elves. Knights, wizards and witches (female wizards), armies, serfs, noblemen, nations at uneasy peace, and a magical wood. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? But the magical wood takes people, changes them, and makes them monsters that contaminate others, and kill in gruesome ways both humans and animals. This is the world Agniesszka lives in, near a village, in a valley near the Wood. Keeping the Wood contained is a wizard called the Dragon, who takes a girl from the villages every 10 years, to live with him in his tower. Agniesszka, and her village believe her friend Kasia will be chosen, because she’s beautiful, friendly, and talented. Agnieszka can get dirty just walking to the cart to go to the village. She can also find fruit out of season in the forest; she finds the most nuts gleaning in the forest. But never goes into the Wood. The girls chosen by the dragon return to their villages, but never stay. Often they go to the city and the university. They come away from the 10 years with the Dragon different, even though they protest he never touches them.
So, when the time comes, it is Agniesszka who is chosen. She doesn’t realize it, but she herself has magical abilities, and it is against the law to let the magically talented to go untrained. It takes her some time to understand that it’s her own power, and not the dragon’s, powering the spells he makes her say. The Dragon is a young looking man, who is cold, distant, and irritable. (Living 100 years battling an evil Wood might do that….) That makes the entire learning process harder, of course, but eventually she yells back at him, and they both learn a way of doing magic together. There is the usual, accepted, structured magical practices, and then a sort of organic, one once practiced by a famous witch with a name very similar to Babba Yagga. Agniesszka is attuned to this type of magic. Her skill gleaning, and the way branches reach out to her in the forest are signs of it. Although this tale isn’t heavy on romance, with hearts and flowers and speeches, it is there.
The story highlights the strong female friendship between Kasia and Agniesszka, and the developing relationship with the Dragon. The loss of the younger Prince’s mother to the Wood twenty years ago grows into a conflict with the Wood itself. Which is also about a love story, a loss, and a betrayal. But you’ll have to read it to find out how that happens, and how the Dragon and Agniesszka deal with it all.
A very interesting, unpredictable story, with the characters it is based on, a girl and her wandering yellow cow, (the Polish folk tale that inspires this story) near the end.
I loved this book. It is a stand alone, from Naomi Novik known for her Temeraire series. There is another title that is also set in this world, called Spinning Silver that I’m looking forward to reading.
Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, trade paperback.
A year after the events in the March 2010 title, Out of My Mind, we join Melody during summer vacation. She wants to go to camp and has researched camps that are designed to provide experiences for children with disabilities. The Green Glades Therapeutic Recreational Camp – here comes Melody! Her experiences are believable, her apprehension as well as eagerness to go and to participate. The reader learns more about Melody and her feelings, hopes, and readiness for adventure.
For the first time in her life, Melody has friends, though it takes just a little while for her campmates to gel into true friends. Her parents, especially her mother, are reassured that each camper will have a camp counselor assigned to them all day (and night) every day. Melody was thinking she didn’t want to be monitored all the time, like her younger sister, she is 12 after all.
But then, during the week she is at camp, Melody faces several new situations. She is scared to get into the pool – what if she sinks? Trinity, her counselor, is there for her. They go for a ride around the lake on a pontoon boat – what if it takes on water? No problem, Trinity is there. But horses, they are huge, and how can Melody ride one? The camp has it all worked out and Trinity rides with her.
Some of the best things about this book are all the wonderful new experiences for Melody, the safety of the camp, and her new friends. Also, there are no mean girls or bullies. It may seem like a week of unbelievable opportunities – but there are camps like this around the country. Readers who wanted to know what happened next for Melody, after the first book, will be surprised and happy for Melody’s first camp experience.
Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Heart. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. ISBN 978-1-6659-0216-8.
The Councillor, by E.J. Beaton, is high fantasy, with a Machiavellian twist, whose author’s first book was poetry. It adds to the flavor and fits the pageantry of this political fantasy. The world building is interesting—a lot is accepted as normal, such as men and women both being soldiers, business leaders, politicians, artisans. And Lysande, herself, the Palace Scholar, is a woman in service to the Queen of Elier, who is called the Steel Queen. The Queen herself picked Lysande out of an orphanage to become the Palace Scholar. And raised and befriended her from that point on. She also receives an envelope, making her the Councillor, on the death of the queen, to pick the next heir to the throne. A duty that leaves her very uneasy.
Not only are men and women equals, it even seems, in an understated way, women are expected to be the leaders. Lysande herself, as well as the queen, are taller than the commander of the castle force. The majority of the rulers of the nation had been queens, no few of them warriors. Primogeniture doesn’t seem to be the usual way of naming a successor. Sexuality is more fluid, attraction and romance is not confined to heterosexual conventions. And, all of this is in the background.
I very much enjoyed this fictional debut. So much of the world building is just part of the story. Lysande was in an orphanage as well as many other children, due to a long war freeing the populace from the threat of the “White Queen”, a magically endowed contender for the throne. Magic users are known as elementals, and are magically in power of an element, such as earth, fire, water. At one time in the distant past, the Elementals were the rulers of the country, until they were cast down. Leaving the populace very anti-magic, to the point of executing anyone suspected of being an Elemental. A point of the law Lysande has often debated with the queen.
Lysande is an interesting, flawed character, herself. She never seems to think it unusual that the queen should take so much interest in her although as the Royal Scholar, she is still a commoner. The nobility, here called silver bloods, certainly never let her forget her humble beginnings. She even keeps her lover, a friend from the orphanage, a secret, from everyone in the castle. Partially in compensation for her perceived shortcomings, she takes a magical drug, made of the scales of a chimera, an extinct magical beast. However, all her study of history of the reigns, wars, and kingdoms of the realm serve her well in dealing with the four city rulers who come to be considered for the throne.
The story is not a simple sword & sorcery, but a political, renaissance type tale, mostly told from a complex character’s viewpoint about the difficulty in deciding who should reign over the realm. There is even a sequel that I hope follows up on some of the dangling threads left at the end, and I am definitely looking forward to it.
The Councillor, by E. J. Beaton, DAW Books, Inc., 2021, ISBN978-0-7564-1699-7