A dreamlike, poetic fantasy bildungsroman explores the power of choice and the meaning of home.
Marni has lived 16 years in a hut near the magic-haunted woods, growing flowers for the nobility with her grandfather. But Gramps was once the king—before his daughter ran away to the woods only to return with a baby rumored to be “the dragon’s daughter,” before Gramps gave up everything to protect Marni from her murderous uncle. Now Gramps is gone, and the king’s court has noticed that his only heir is an unmarried girl...and the woods are invading the kingdom, calling Marni to return. A fully satisfying fairy tale, this can also be read as an elegant metaphor for adolescence, as Marni is tempted in turn by obscurity, power, vengeance, romance and (most seductive) the freedom of eternal childhood. Her vivid narration is rustic and even coarse at times. She is bitterly resentful of her unjust treatment but also aching with loneliness and lyrically passionate about the beauty of nature and magic alike, and she is always perceptive, acute and honest. Torn between human and dragon, Marni (unlike too many otherwise “strong” teen heroines) fiercely maintains her own agency. Thoughtful readers will embrace the ambiguous conclusion and appreciate the triumph of Marni’s commitment to keeping her possibilities open.
Deliberate at first, Hahn’s debut is cumulatively stunning. (Fantasy. 12 & up)