This middle-grade debut sees a young outcast discover her true potential while on a quest to save others.
In the kingdom of Glendoch, the town of Tyr, 12-year-old Meylyne sits in a willow tree. She’s originally from the cavernous Between-World but has trespassed to the Above-World to find a special black opal belonging to her mother. Hiding in the tree, she waits to see Prince Piam, who only visits once a year. When a woman climbs into the tree with her, the situation gets precarious. The prince passes directly beneath—and Meylyne falls on him. She bolts back to the Between-World, realizing that she’s broken the First Rule by going above. Her mother, the alchemist Ellenyr, and her great-uncle, Prime Minister Groq, could send her to the Shadow Cellars. When she asks advice from the Old Well, it reveals the ultimatum that Queen Emery has offered Ellenyr: She must cure Prince Piam’s fast-aging illness within three months or Meylyne will live among the Snake People. The Old Well then tells the girl to visit the stream between the towns of Tyr and Welke, where she’ll meet a stalliynx (who has a horse’s head and a lion’s body). She does so, beginning a journey to save the prince and possibly all of Glendoch. With social nuance and a crackling wit, Holland presents a deep bench of fabulous creations in her fantasy adventure. Meylyne is only half-human and forbidden to use the magic that should be her birthright from Ellenyr. Her father, Meph, meanwhile, is a garlysle, who’s got a beak and feathers—and is supposedly a criminal. When Meylyne gives her mother the black opal, Ellenyr isn’t quite overjoyed. The stalliynx, named Hopexivaffoplos-ploossenaagen, suggests Meylyne call him Hope for short. Around this pair grows a cohort of heroes who commit to more and more dangerous tasks. Eventually, Meylyne learns that an aspect of herself—which she’s been taught to be ashamed of—proves central to solving a slew of problems. Holland excels in burying twists that flip the whole narrative on its head. Readers should wish for a longer stay in Glendoch.
An effervescent fantasy crafted from the heart.