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Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: April 5, 2011
Source: I Read Banned Books ARC Tour
Summary: (from Goodreads) Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Taninli, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.
First impressions: The world here was so different from any other book I've read recently. I couldn't put it down, because I was so curious about where this story was going. The first chapter is retrospective, so we see where things might end up, but not what has happened yet, and it is achingly beautiful.
Lasting impressions: Breathtaking. Grand. This fantasy was gloriously epic while still remaining a quick read and avoiding an overly complicated plot. This one is top notch.
Conflicting impressions: I didn't want it to end. I wanted more! I would have loved to have had more backstory on the state of the world and relations with the Fairy people. There's definitely enough here to make the story work, but a tad more information would have just filled in the edges a bit.
Overall impressions: If it wasn't already clear, I loved this book. Any book that can surprise me is on good footing already. One of the things I found so refreshing about this book is the love story that builds between the two female main characters. That in and of itself is a bit outside of the norm, but what really made me soar was that this budding attraction was not shameful, shunned, or disapproved of by their society. Kaede and Taisin are only kept apart by Taisin's path as a sage. Sages are to be celibate, yet the vision she has of the future, where she knows she loves Kaede, haunts her. How does she choose life as a sage or life in love at the vulnerable age of seventeen?
It's this struggle that defines the book. When the girls are sent on a quest to meet the Fairy Queen, and later, to battle an evil presence, the heart of the issue is this growing bond between two young girls who just want to do what is expected of them without losing themselves in the process. Malinda Lo handles this tension with exquisite ease.
Like any good questing fantasy, this one involves bloody battles (including one particularly violent clash with a band of wolves). Still, the love stories that wind their way through the novel are more emotional than physical, so I think it would be appropriate for the younger teen set as well. This book tackles so many of the struggles we all feel, and so well, that it would be a shame for any reader to miss out.
Rating: 5/5 stars
This book was provided for review by the Banned Books Tour at I Read Banned Books.