Brightly Woven. New York: Egmont.
Appetizer: The king is dead and many don't want to see his young queen rule the country in his place. While the affairs of royalty seem far removed from 16-year-old Sydelle Mirabil's family on the west side of the country, she becomes entangled in the questionable future of the kingdom when a wizard named North makes Syd accompany him in a cross-country journey to find out what really happened to the king. As they travel, Syd begins to learn of her own power through her weaving and begins to suspect that North may be keeping secrets from her.
Brightly Woven kinda reminded me of The Hunger Games. Not because of the content (of course both do include strong female protagonists AND interesting love interests...but that's not the direction I was going with this ramble...so stay with me here). But as I read, I was sucked in to the book because of Sydelle's strength, humor and relatability as a character. The same thing happened to me with Katniss. I liked the way she interacted with and held her own with North.
Part of what made Syd particularly interesting as a female character is the fact that a lot of her power and freedom comes through her weaving, a traditionally female job. A reader could very easily become interested in learning more about weaving based on Syd's story.
I liked the banter between Syd and the wizard North. I also liked the pace of the book. The plot went some places that I didn't expect it to which was a good surprise. (Although, a few times that a new minor character was introduced and I would miss a the specifics of the introduction, so I'd have to go back a few pages and skim for the details of how they were again. While some out there might argue that I merely wasn't paying attention, I think the fact that it happened a few times may hint at it being a part of the writing and therefore worth a mention here. Anyone? Anyone else in the internetz hace that problem? Hello?)
On an only slightly related note, Egmont is a new baby of a publishing house. This is the first of their books that I've gotten my hands on. So far, I have to say Egmont is off to a good start. Not that they care much about what I have to say. But I'm content to shout toward the empty spaces of the internet. It's just like when I ramble to myself. That happens a lot.
Alas, Brightly Woven will not be available until March 2010. But, it is one I recommend looking out far. In the meantime, you can follow Alexandra Bracken on Twitter. she often tweets about the publishing world, Egmont and Harry Potter.
"The day the rains finally came was like any other, with blistering air coating the canyon in a heavy stillness. By late afternoon, the only thing more suffocating that the air was the dust kicked up by our feet. We were as quiet as the dead, moving from rock to crevice, always watching the paths for a sign of movement" (p. 1).
"I watched him out of the corner of my eye, studying him as I would a book or drawing. How could I not? He was the only wizard I'd ever seen--in all likelihood, the only wizard I ever would see. It seemed so strange to have him look so ordinary. After all the stories I'd read about their adventures and magic, I never expected them to look like any man or woman" (p. 16).
"I offered Mr. North a reward for breaking the drought," my father explained, "and he's chosen you. Do you understand?"
I was the one crying now, and I couldn't tell my anger from my fear" (p. 24).
"Do you know what this wench just accused me of being?"
"A filthy pig," North said good-naturedly. "But there's only one filthy pig allowed in her life, and the position's been filled" (p. 44).
"Are...you saying I have [a] magical ability?" I asked carefully.
"Magic is inherited through families," he said. "You may have had a wizard in your family, but it was a long time ago. What power you have in you is weak and useless."
"No useless," I said, giving him a hard look. "Not entirely" (p. 60).
"Outside, Owain did mot of the talking. He told me how he and North had met--an almost brawl when they had both been out of their minds with drunkenness--and went into even greater detail about the beautiful, fair-haired Vesta. It took me several minutes to work out that Vesta was a horse, and Owain was possibly in love with her" (p. 78).
To Go with the Meal:
This is an excellent YA fantasy recommendation. I love that Syd is such a strong protagonist--one of those relatable and inspiring female-types that feminists like me can wander around, ranting about being a good character to encourage girls to look up to.
Although probably not my first choice for a whole class to read, this would be a good book to give to a student who may be nervous about going off to college. Throughout the story, Syd is very concerned with leaving behind the only home she has ever known. While she looks forward to escaping her small drought-ridden village, on her journey she often feels homesick and sees the features of her parents in the faces of the people she meets. Syd also learns that some of the cities she'd dreamed of seeing were in fact not as impressive as she imagined.
Also, later in the text the way the conflict between two countries is described and the fact that some of the conflict originates in differences of religion, a teacher could try to draw out articles of that part of Brightly Woven as an allegory for real-world conflicts.
Tasty Rating: !!!!
P.S. I received an advanced reader copy of Brightly Woven through onearctours.blogspot.com. Another blogger sent the book to me and I have since sent it off to yet another blogger on the book tour.