Delacorte Books for Young Readers
2003 Michael L Printz Honor Book
When the magic that protects their Valley starts to fail, Tilja and her companions journey into the evil Empire to find the ancient magician Faheel, who originally cast those spells.
Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors. Her retold fairy tales are amazing. I knew that her husband was Peter Dickinson, but I never had (or took?) the opportunity to read any of his books. Which, as it turns out, was unfortunate, because The Ropemaker was right up my alley.
That’s the trouble with this project, I keep finding these great authors and adding their entire bibliography to my already super-long to-be-read list!
I love fairy tales and retold fairy tales, and while this wasn’t a retelling, at least not of anything I know, it definitely had a lot of fairy tale qualities about it. I love fantasies with well thought out world building and interesting magic systems, and this had both. There was also a real sense of the endlessness of time — these things have happened before, they’ll happen again.
It’s not perfect, there are some threads of theme that don’t always go anywhere and several characters that are underdeveloped. In fact, at times, you wonder if the author dragged them just because he needed them later, but forgot to give them things to do and much of a character arc until their big moment when they were crucial to the plot.
Overall, I enjoyed it, and the main character, Tilja, was easy to like and want to see succeed.
Diversity in books is a big part of book conversations lately, so I’ve been trying to pay attention to that in the books I’m reading. I didn’t think of it for this book until I was almost done, and it’s strange, because I really don’t remember skin color being a part of the descriptions in this book. With the names, it’s got a little bit of a Nordic vibe, but I’ve gone back to find descriptions of some of the character, and in the few minutes I’ve spent looking in palces I remember character descriptions, I’m not finding any reference to skin color — just hair. I haven’t looked very hard, but in one particular spot, one of the main characters is described as being “a slim, wiry, muscular man with almost jet black, short, curly hair and a look of fiery pride.” Another woman is described as having “a mass of glossy chestnut hair.”
When I was reading, I think I probably made an assumption — that these characters look like me. If I had a different color skin, though, would I be reading them as looking like ME, or would I assume they were white? It’s a question I can’t answer, but it’s something I will continue to be aware of as I continue to read.