CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018
Fen, a young girl growing up in Village 21 in Queendom of Illium, knows only a life of survival. Her father is dead, and her mother spends her days mining the magical red dust that solidifies the Queen's powers and allows the Queen to keep her subjects enslaved. A split second decision in the market results in Fen's losing her hand to a Queen's soldier for thievery. Just as she becomes accustomed to life without her hand, she begins to grow the bright crimson hair that marks her as a "wild magic". In Illium, this means a death sentence. Despite her best efforts, her condition is discovered, and she is forced to leave her family and flee. The Queen's soldiers capture her sister and hold her hostage in an attempt to convince Fen to turn herself in. Fen is desperate to save her only remaining family member, but despite her growing magical abilities, she has no way to rescue her sister until she meets a servant of an old power that is rising to take down the Queen. Fen must decide whether to use her growing powers to assist the ancient god in defeating the Queen, but, can he be trusted?
Crimson is fast-paced, suspenseful and will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Lovers of high fantasy, adventure, and coming of age stories will all find something in the story to satisfy them. The characters are likeable and realistic, and they grow and develop in a way that adds depth to the storyline. Fen is a protagonist with whom readers will identify and root for. She is brave, resilient, resourceful, and willing to risk her life to save her sister. The story touches on many powerful themes over the course of the book: loyalty, the power of history, slavery, corruption of power, politics. Fen learns about each of these through experiences on her journey, and her character is written in a way that the reader learns with her.
Illium, the setting of the story, is very creatively written. There are epic landscapes: evil smelling poison swamps, wild rivers, and chasms of fire. Slade does a great job of describing the landscapes, making it easy to picture the characters there as they travel. Slade has also created an impressive history and backstory for the citizens, including a lost language and heritage for the inhabitants of Fen's village.
Another highlight of the book is the dialogue between characters. It is natural and never seems stilted or forced. There are some humorous conversations and moments between Fen and Ithak, the 1000-year-old Invisible Man.
Crimson is a highly enjoyable read that has wide appeal. It is creative, well-paced, interesting, with great dialogue and imagery. Readers will feel a genuine like for Fen and her companions and will be invested in the outcome of their quest.
Jennifer Seper is a librarian with Vancouver Island Regional Library.