A dark fantasy illuminated by piercing flashes of hope builds upon the well-received Dragon’s Keep (2007), while standing complete on its own.
Tess has known little in her 17 years but brutality, grief and fear: the angry fists of her blacksmith father, the infant graves of her siblings and the ominous prophetic visions she sees in flames. As Wilde Island teeters toward political collapse and a vicious witch-hunter sets her sights on Tess, she and her friends flee into Dragonswood, the forbidden abode of dragons and the fey folk. Even as they find refuge with a secretive woodward, the fairies keep calling to Tess… as if they had a duty only she could fulfill. Despite the romantic cover and lush, poetic prose, this is no adventure for the squeamish. Tess does not shy away from graphic descriptions of beatings, torture and grisly violence—and subtler betrayals, manipulation and callous disregard—that leave her scarred in body and soul. Yet for all her mistrust, self-loathing and cringing expectation of blows, Tess reveals a surprising strength and unflinching loyalty. While she does not extend an unrealistic forgiveness, she finds the courage to work with her abusers towards a greater goal; her tentative, hesitant love for the one person who treats her with kindness and respect is both touching and achingly bittersweet.
Painful, cathartic and cautiously hopeful; a fairy tale for those who have given up on believing in them, but still yearn for happily ever after. (Fantasy. 14 & up)