In Smith’s debut fantasy novella, the first in a planned trilogy, a teenager is held captive by her father after her mother’s death.
One fateful day, Anna’s grandfather visits her at school to tell her the news that her mother, Rose, has drowned. Anna was very close to her loving mother, and she once had good times with her father, Fred, as well, but now she distrusts him; after he lost his job, he took to drink and became brutish. Three months after her mother’s death, Anna returns to school, where students have been known to bully her; however, she’s always found some comfort in her beloved red jacket, which smells of lavender—her mother’s favorite fragrance. When an explosion suddenly rocks her classroom, the sun becomes dark and haloed, and an image of a red-eyed Dictator, bent on establishing a new world order, appears in the sky. The Dictator is Anna’s own father, and for months afterward, he holds her against her will, sedating her, feeding her stale bread and moldy cheese, and interrogating her. He wants her to reveal “that location,” but she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Perhaps the locale isn’t geographical but a place hidden deep in Anna’s memories; an introductory passage states that Anna “holds a key that could lead to the world’s destruction”—the ability to manifest dreams into reality. This is a well-written, thought-provoking tale about a “chosen one.” It’s ambiguous enough to suggest numerous literal or figurative interpretations, as it addresses harnessing the power of dreams, emotional and/or mental breakdowns, parental abuse as a form of dictatorship, classroom bullying, and war and revolution. The brief text also includes a captivating riddle involving a music box, which Anna must somehow solve. The story ends with unanswered, intriguing questions that will stimulate readers’ curiosity. Overall, this is an absorbing tale told with brevity and economy that ends at a pivotal moment before the next installment.
An edgy YA fantasy featuring a strong heroine who must use her wits and inner strength to survive.