In this YA fantasy debut, a magically powered teenager battles a ruling wizard on behalf of her parents.
Sixteen-year-old Tessa Skye lives in the village of Sorrenwood. Her father, Donal, is a locksmith, and her mother, Gillian, ran away—possibly with a lover or to her death in the river—12 years ago. Tessa adores her boyfriend, Ryland, but thinks little of his friend Ash Kemp, who grows shy around her. Lately, Tessa has been using an amulet that she found the day that her mother left, called a “windrider,” to change into a sparrow and take flight. One day, she swoops by the castle of Lord Fellstone, a conjurer who rules the region. He spies her sitting on a windowsill and suggests to his strange, masked apprentice, Ratcher, that they have sparrow for dinner. Tessa manages to escape, and after she arrives back home, Donal confiscates the amulet and scolds, “You can be sure there’s a price to be paid in using that magic.” Elsewhere, fortuneteller Calder Osric ends up in the stocks after one of his prognostications goes awry. Tessa helps free him, little realizing that there’s a link between them. Later, Fellstone’s knights murder someone close to Tessa. Calder discovers the body and informs Tessa that Fellstone possesses a special wand, the dreadmarrow, that can resurrect the dead. In this emotionally elegant debut, author Kaptanoglu takes choice YA themes—such as first love—and juxtaposes them against crafty fantasy elements. At one point, she writes of how Tessa prefers privacy while using the windrider: “There was something about the transformation of man into beast—or girl into bird—that felt intensely personal, like taking off my clothes.” The narrative also makes subtle narrative connections, such as the way that Ash’s quest for Tessa’s affection parallels Calder’s failure years ago to win over his teenage love, Faline. Kaptanoglu should be forgiven if the plot sutures up too neatly, because there are also surprises right up to the end.
A novel that celebrates life and love the way only the best fantasy tales can.