A debut novel by a New Zealand author, this Young Adult fantasy novel has a lot going for it.
Freya was half-blinded in a terrible accident as a baby – boiling water took her sight, and, in the vaguely medieval style setting common in fantasy novels, guarantees her to be somewhat of an outcast. However, with a loving family, her responsibility for the family goat, and her general optimistic world view, she is a pretty awesome heroine. One thing I particularly love about Freya is that you know she is blind in one eye, you know she has long hair in order to hide the eye from others as much as possible, and you know that others find her ugly – but that is it. She isn’t the damaged but beautiful heroine often used in books, the only references to her physical appearance are those needed to tell the story. What matters most is her determination, and drive – which is how the book starts, as he hides from some would-be tormentors using her speed and cleverness to escape them.
The world building is strong in this novel, I have a complete visual image of the setting, and understanding of how the world itself works. I love that – so often in YA fantasy novels, I find myself asking – but why? I didn’t have that here. It makes sense! Yes! The plot flips between Freya, and her family, once they are separated, and that really enabled the bigger picture to develop, so it was a great storytelling style to use. The actual writing is quality too, more show than tell, and the reader is treated as competent, with great language used throughout.
It does end on a cliff hanger of sorts, and I am really looking forward to see what happens next. I pretty much devoured this in one sitting, which is always a good sign, and I have lots of good questions going into the next one (rather than that why question I mentioned earlier).
A very strong first novel, and I look forward to reading more both in this series, or any other offerings to come.