In an alternate ancient British Isles, an intrepid heroine may save the kingdom from its wicked ruler.
Marillier’s deep knowledge of folklore and the early-medieval period shine through, but never overwhelm, her latest. In Alban, the Good Folk (widely varied, magical creatures) have occasionally intermingled with humans, and as a result, some humans are “canny.” Canny Neryn can see the Good Folk, which may only be the beginning. But tyrannical King Keldec has turned Alban into a realm of fear and hatred where canny folk are killed or used as weapons. Neryn and her father have fled the king’s Enforcers for years, haunted by their village’s massacre. When a mysterious stranger saves Neryn from her father’s drunken gambling and an Enforcer raid, Neryn finds herself journeying toward Shadowfell, the secret rebel enclave she hopes exists. Neryn’s struggles—to exist day to day, to make peace with the tragedies of her past and the uncertainties of her present, and above all, to grasp and even use her own terrible power—ground this tale. The slightest thread of a blossoming relationship winds throughout, while magic imbues everything but feels real; the Good Folk are other, but not, in this carefully detailed world, fantastic.
Proper fantasy, balanced between epic and personal; this promises to be an engrossing series, with intimations of bigger things ahead. (Historical fantasy. 13 & up)