“The whole situation should be terrifying, but she felt a helpless surrender to it. Here she was on this journey to a place that didn’t exist on their maps, and all around unseen things seemed to stare out at them day and night. But there, not two feet away from her, was a girl who made her feel light-headed.”
Here’s the brand new Malinda Lo book, fresh off the press just this April! I saw it at the library yesterday and spent all my spare seconds reading it. Not that it was hard–I definitely didn’t want to put it down. I feel like Malinda Lo really exceeded all of my expectations when it came to this book. Even though it’s her second book, it’s set a few centuries before Ash, in the same land.
Here’s the story: the Kingdom is in trouble. The sun has faded to a nondescript gray, crops are failing, and people are starving. Those worst off are beginning to revolt. At the Academy, the leaders cast the stones of the Oracle. Two seventeen-year-old girls, Kaede and Taisin, are chosen to undertake the perilous journey to the city of the Fairy Queen. No one is sure what danger waits ahead, or even exactly where to go: some of the maps haven’t been updated in decades, back when the fairies and the humans had much more contact with each other. So, with several escorts, the girls make their way over miles of terrain, facing cold, fear, wolves, a horrifying changeling baby, and worse. As they travel together, the girls grow closer, and end up falling in love.
All right, I have to apologize. My description of the plot is so, so lame compared to the actual story. That’s why Malinda Lo is out there writing incredible adventure stories, and I’m just here on this little blog, telling everyone how awesome she is.
Because, you know what? She is awesome. I want to live in her world, where there is no hate or homophobia and falling in love is just falling in love. She makes a safe space for us, and I so appreciate it. Many GLBT books deal with hatred, homophobia, social relationships, family tensions and bullying…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, in Lo’s world, there has been a paradigm shift, far away from all of that. It’s just normal. Some people are gay and some people are straight, and there’s really no discussion about it.
Here’s what she has to say about the world she creates:
“The difference is: in the world of my novels, being gay doesn’t matter.
What that means is that the characters are able to fall in love without dealing with homophobia. They don’t have to come out, because sexual orientation is never assumed in their worlds, and falling in love with someone of the same sex is seen as perfectly natural.”
Besides all of that lovely business, the adventure is tight: no wasted words, no irrelevant plot detours, just pure action and excitement. Halfway through the book, I started panicking that it was going to end. It’s not a tired account of the same old symbols, either: Lo mixes in the I Ching, fairy tale elements, and an ice fortress that reminded me of a fantastic Celtic folk tale I read one time. I can’t wait for her to write something else!
Author’s website: http://www.malindalo.com/
Lo, Malinda. Huntress. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2011. 371 pp. Ages16 and up.
If you liked this book (and you’ve already read The Hobbit, which it partly reminded me of), you should try her first book, Ash. If you’ve already read them both, and are looking for more fantasy, I really like the author Robin McKinley. However, if you’re searching for more GLBT fantasy, I am actually not sure what else is out there. If anyone knows of something along those lines, please share!