CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 35. . . .May 15, 2015
The powers of Darkness sweep over the Earth, and the Dreamers are protectors of the forces of Light. As she is drawn into the struggle between Light vs Dark, Caddy uncovers layer upon layer of deceit, Soon she has no idea whom she can trust to prevent her vision of destruction from becoming reality.
Meanwhile, Caddy's school friend, Meg, is run down by the Grey Men and transformed by death into an angelic ethereal being of Light called Skylark and pulled into the alternate reality. Together with a band of ethereal Light cowboys, Skylark pursues the Speaker, only to be poisoned by the Speaker's dark energy.
Both drawn to the enigmatic figure of Poe, Caddy and Skylark are set on a collision course where the future of the world hangs by a thread and where the forces of Darkness and Light prepare for a final battle.
Author Natalie Ghent has created a complex fantasy of classic good vs evil with the fate of the world resting in the hands of 17-year-old Caddy. Told in alternating viewpoints of Skylark and Caddy, the story explores contrasting layers of both darkness and light. Caddy's troop of Dreamers live in desperate need, surviving on thin broth, wearing rags, chased and massacred in brutal technicolour by anonymous Grey Men who do the bidding of the Company. Skylark's world, in contrast, seems like an orderly heaven where gowned and sexless spirits are sorted into frequencies that determine their social roles. Except, of course, that Skylark holds onto her earthly shape and memories so she doesn't quite fit neatly into any one frequency. Drawn by her own needs into a group of misfits who find their own way to fight the Darkness, she is poisoned by the Evil Speaker and moves to the Dark Side. Both girls are sucked into violent, bloody battles against dark forces, moving through time and space to confront the Darkness.
If the story sounds both confusing and eerily familiar, join the club. Ghent's complex plot shows a clear awareness of the blockbusters of popular dystopian dark fantasy A reader may be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja-vu as the patterns reappear. Skylark is sorted into "frequencies"; she, Caddy and Poe form a love triangle that feeds a jealous possessiveness; Skylark is given an animal totem, a white mouse that feeds her sage advice; a leader of the Dreamers turns out to be a traitor; and the cold-eyed evil Speaker poisons thoughts with a dark tendril into the brain. All these we have seen before in young adult bestsellers, from Divergent, Hunger Games>, Harry Potter and the Golden Compass to the many Fallen Angel series.
Some teen readers will be reassured by the recognizable tropes, but problems arise in plot, voice and character development The story sometimes loses itself in its own convolutions, creating new realities with every chapter that distract from, rather than enrich, the plot. Skylark accidentally transports to a Civil War battlefield and talks to a spirit of the Maple Forest. Neither contribute meaningfully to the story. While alternating viewpoints keep several balls (and fantasy worlds) in the air at once, the narrative momentum is sometimes sacrificed as readers stitch the worlds together. Skylark's self-absorbed petulance is a sharp contrast to Caddy's dark alienation, and, though the voices are clearly delineated, they are also somewhat jarring. As teenagers, both girls have an unrealistic ability to adjust to bloody murder committed around them and carry on without apparent trauma.
Though the book's overly complex structure and familiar plot devices are drawbacks, adolescent readers will be drawn to the gritty heroine, the bloody action and the reassuring victory of Light over Darkness. Teacher-librarians should be aware of the graphic nature of some battle scenes.
Recommended with Reservations.
Wendy Phillips is a teacher-librarian in Richmond, B.C. and the author of the Governor General's award-winning young adult novel, Fishtailing.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any
other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.