Faint echoes of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White” waft up from this new fantasy.
Sand (short for Alexandre) wakes in the ashes of a fireplace, in a castle in which every room and object has been broken: the Sundered Castle. He doesn’t know how he got there, but a vicious, active wall of thorns keeps him within. Son of a blacksmith, he goes about attempting to mend whatever he can, and when he finds the body of a girl, he rearranges her limbs carefully—and she awakens. Perrotte has been dead—or asleep—for over 25 years. Like Sand, she is about 13; unlike him, she is of noble birth. The first half of the tale is about mending everything in the castle, Perrotte and Sand working together through the forging and firing and hammering. The second half, however, gets rather muddled. Perrotte withholds her complicated and violent political history from Sand, as well as the news that a knight will be coming through the thorn barrier to plunge her back into it. It’s possible that two saints whose broken relics Sand mends hold the key to the future. These elements do not hang together as well as the beautifully sustained central metaphor of blacksmithing. Moreover, Sand and Perrotte seem much older than 13, and the ending preaches loudly.
Still, it stands alone neatly, and the lore of blacksmith work is carried through with vivid energy. (Fantasy. 9-12)