This gentle tale, set in the world of Dragonfly (2009), offers a fresh take on high-fantasy conventions.
Only her father knows that Rain, 15, designs the glass in his workshop; women are barred from the glassmakers' guild. He sends her in his place when a distant country with a decaying society and a rigid caste system, Magharna, seeks a glass designer. Arriving in Magharna, Rain’s party is attacked by bandits. She’s rescued by Peri, a handsome falconer and member of the untouchable caste, but through a misunderstanding, is left to fend for herself in the unfriendly city of Rolvint. Her forced servitude there ends when a merchant’s financial collapse sparks a revolt, driving the city into anarchy. Peri returns to rescue Rain, but she has her own agenda—restoring Magharna to a viable society. Yes, Golding’s high-fantasy world features the usual hierarchical governance by ancient aristocracies, but she’s no moral essentialist. Her bandits aren’t innately evil or deluded by satanic influences; they’re unemployed outcasts with no better prospects until Rain shows up, blending idealism with a streak of girlish realpolitik.
Forget the predictable and clichéd love story; read for the social commentary. An insightful, engaging portrait of a high-fantasy society in the midst of social change. (Fiction. 12 & up)