Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Dark Horse (Oct 2011)

ISBN: 9781595827982

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

The strange daughter of the healer, Tansy, looks at the world a little differently from everyone else. Her world is a tiny island, where dragons once roamed, and now do again. How can Tansy and her people destroy the vicious beast stealing their kin and their cattle? They turn to the mainland, and find a hero to help – but heroes aren’t always what they seem, and he may not be hero enough.

There is so much that is lovely about this book. The art, although perhaps a little patchy in places, looking unfinished, is still evocative, sometimes advancing the story in whole panels without text. The writing is beautiful, bespeaking an older time and place. The story, while fairly straightforward (I actually had the plot of A Bug’s Life in my head at one point, when the “hero” has the villagers working together!), is true fantasy, meshed in wonder. It’s a bit heavy handed in the first few pages, but evens out as the story progresses. I enjoyed reading it, but having said that, I did have some problems with the work.

My main complaint is that the story is not actually long enough. There seemed to be multiple plot threads teased out but not tied off, which left me a little unsatisfied. Most of these did not even need to be part of the story, although it gained a richness from them, but without resolution, it leaves the book somewhat flat. There are three sisters in the story, and we get glimpses of them throughout that make them a true part of the story, but then they simply disappear. I wanted more! Particularly of Rosemary and her beau. I also wanted to see more of the teenage boys who were sent to find the hero – they played an important role, but were then just gone.

I also felt the “hero”, Lancot, was not set up well enough in the beginning to be worthy of Tansy – he was so shallow and two dimensional, against her intelligence and grace. If we’d seen something more buried in Lancot from when we first meet him, I would have felt less put out – it’s like she is a prize for him, even though she’s done most of the work!

I read this in a Net Galley digital edition (uncorrected proof), and am thus reluctant to comment too much on the actual design elements. The lettering was a little hard to read electronically, but this may be different in print (or in the final copy).

In all, it’s a lovely fantasy story, with a very old-fashioned fairytale tone, even though it seems Yolen made an effort to subvert some traditional tropes. I would have liked to see a greater exploration of some of the elements, but it was still an interesting read.