Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown
Tags: fantasy, YA, queer, strong female characters, bittersweet romance
I bought this at In Other Words, a feminist community center in Portland (I just looked at the date of the pics and I had this book since September 2015!!) I’ve heard great things of Malinda Lo and I’ve been wanting to read her work. I haven’t read Ash, but a non-Euro-centric fantasy is always a plus in my book (har har).
Plot-wise, the story is pretty straight-forward. The world is dying. Two teenage girls are sent on a journey to visit the mysterious Fairy Queen and hopefully find a way to restore the balance of nature. It’s obvious why Taisin, a powerful sage-in-training is sent, but Kaede, with no magical bone in her body, is a mystery. Only Taisin knows, through her prophetic dreams, that Kaede is crucial to this journey.
The pacing is slow, but it allowed me to get to know the world and characters more. Both Taisin and Kaede are great protagonists. Kaede, despite her lack of magical ability is sure of herself and knows who she is (well, as much as you can know yourself as a 17 year old). She is trained in the physical arts and learns the hard lesson of killing and death while on this journey. I really felt the pain Kaede was going through as she learned the true price of ending a life, regardless if it’s for good or ill. Taisin, on the other hand is seen throughout the book questioning herself and her growing attraction to Kaede.
The growing love between the two was bittersweet to watch, though it was marred with the fact that Taisin knew of the love between them through her prophecy. I felt that Taisin’s love was pre-destined and not natural. In the end, she did not fight her feelings and loved Kaede anyway though she knew it would be short-lived: regardless if they made it out of this journey alive, Taisin was going to become a sage and sages are celibate. It just made the short story after the book, The Fox much more sad to read for me. I have to admire the two though: they did not let love block them from pursuing their dreams (still totally sucks though).
The only other thing I have against the story is the reasoning behind Kaede and Taisin going to kill the daughter in the first place. I mean:
“But if she is so powerful, how could any human succeed?” he asked. “Surely this is a task meant for one of your own.”
“My people are peaceful,” the Queen said curtly. “We cannot take the life of our own kind.”
I guess this could be taken literally and that the Xi (the Fairy Queen’s race) cannot take the life of another Xi, but it just seemed like an excuse to me, especially discovering in the end that the girl was the Queen’s actual daughter.
I definitely recommend it, with just a teeny tiny bit of reservation.