Sprites find themselves in mortal danger when connections between parallel worlds start to wither in Bates’ debut fantasy novel.
Years after being exiled for carrying a dormant but potentially deadly illness, Helia returns to the Sprite world of Forestlight. Her fellow Sprites are understandably worried about the weakened boundary between worlds called the Thinness. Daimanland, a world populated by large, menacing creatures, is bleeding into Forestlight, and the Interfaces (or gateways) may soon be big enough for the daiman to pass through. Helia has the ability to see glimpses of the other worlds and to sense where the boundaries are. She searches the humana world in order to help a special humana, Einion Morgan Alban, who has the power to strengthen the Thinness by closing Interfaces. Sea Sprites Yalara Narika and Rasania, meanwhile, are nearly overwhelmed by a blue haze, which may be the cause of devastation they witness later in Oceanlight. The novel lyrically details innumerable elements of the Sprite worlds, from the Sea Sprites’ many rituals to Einion’s travels into other realms and times. Even the darker parts of the story sound poetic; as Yalara and Rasania stare at the aftermath of destruction, for example, the ocean sparkles “with the glint of the rising sun.” Bates expertly blends the fantastical aspects with more true-to-life particulars: Einion is afflicted with hemophilia, for example, but the symptoms largely vanish when he crosses through an Interface. However, the book sometimes feels more like an introduction to a series than its own distinct story. For instance, the villain Fimafeng, a daiman-Sprite hybrid who can take human form, is dropped from the narrative too soon. There’s also no closure for any of the subplots, and Oceanlight doesn’t play a big role in the main plot’s calamity, despite the fact that it’s name-checked in the book’s subtitle. Overall, the novel gives the impression that a lengthier story was cut short—a notion supported by glossary-appendices that feature a few terms that never appear, including, disappointingly, “Bear-cat.”
A fantasy series starter that hardly scratches the surface, but its vivid descriptions and remarkable characters will have readers hunting for the next installment.