By Alexandra Bracken
Available now from Egmont USA; Review copy
One of the hardest things to resist when writing fantasy is the tendency to exoticize fantasy. Because, of course, no matter how strange the society you've created is, it's still full of people acting like people. Alexandra Bracken never forgets this.
Sydelle Mirabel lives in a small village famous for its pottery. Unfortunately, there's been a long drought, so there's no mud, so no one can make the pottery and the village is in bad shape. She dreams of leaving to apprentice herself to a master weaver. Then, one day in the mountains, she comes across Wayland North, a wizard wearing a number of colored cloaks.
Soon he's brought rain to the village and he and Sydelle are moving quickly, though he won't tell her what's really going on and why he needs to drink so much. Then they run into his rival, Reuel Dorwan, and Sydelle realizes that she needs to find out what Wayland's goals are because she's part of them.
Despite being narrated by a girl, I think boys can enjoy BRIGHTLY WOVEN. It moves quickly, with more emphasis on the action than Wayland and Sydelle's budding romance. (Their romance is more the bantering-type than the lovey dovey-type anyway.)
I especially enjoyed how Bracken wove the history of Saldorra and Auster, the two countries almost at war, throughout the text. It makes sense that both countries present similar but opposing narratives. The cultural stuff remains low-key and easy to follow, but contains just enough complexity to remain realistic.
BRIGHTLY WOVEN is a nice, brisk fantasy. Bracken's debut is charming enough to overcome the rough points that are found in the work of all first time authors. I liked Sydelle's voice and enjoyed her surprising adventure.