________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 33 . . . . April 27, 2018



Arthur Slade.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollinsCanada, 2018.
279 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-44341-668-9.

Grades 6-11 / Ages 11-16.

Review by Jennifer Seper.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"You will go to the Velchan'sss Forge and bring back that which you find there." Fen had no idea where or what the forge was. But it didn't matter. It was the best way to get to her sister. "What am I bringing back?" she asked.

"You will know when you sssee it, Fen. The answer is sssstaring you right in the face."

Fen couldn't see the answer. She felt the warmth of her sister's hand. And smelled the horror of that jail cell. May should not spend one moment longer than necessary in that place.

"Your head," Marcus said. "You want her to bring back your head." Fen glanced over at him, impressed by how quickly he had put things together.
I should have figured that out.

"Ssssmart Queen's Guard. Yesss. That isss it."

"And why can't you get it?" Marcus asked.

"All of my shirkerssss who have tried have died. And others I've sent."

"You've sent others?" Fen fixed Ithak with a glance. Ithak shrugged. "Other wildmagics?"

"Yessss. They were very brave. Good friendssss. But they failed. And died."

"And why would I survive?"

"Survival is not a certainty. But only I can ssssave your sister, and only you can save me. Again, it is ssssomething friends would do for friends."

The voice was not as overpowering as it have been before. She wondered if she were just growing accustomed to talking to a dead man. No. A dead god. "And how will you save my sister?"

"I will tear down the walls of Regentium and kill my dearest love, the Queen."

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.

Highly Recommended.

Jennifer Seper is a librarian with Vancouver Island Regional Library.

To comment on this title or this review, contact cm@umanitoba.ca.

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