Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: YA/ Fantasy/ Romance
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication date: March 23 2010
Hardcover: 368 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone (but should this be a series? HELL YES).
When Wayland North brings rain to a region that’s been dry for over ten years, he’s promised anything he’d like as a reward. He chooses the village elder’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she’s hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she’s heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.
The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North’s dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.
Why did I read this book: 1) It looks lovely – this is a case of major cover win 2) it sounds lovely (High Fantasy! Romance!) and 3) Angie’s review made me want to read it sooner rather than later.
How did I get this book: Review copy from the publisher.
A combination of the two genres I love the most, Fantasy and Romance , the best word to describe Brightly Woven is “lovely”. From the opening sentence to the closing line (both of them mentioning the same word) , my attention was held by the stirring, enchanting prose, by a world that evoked memories of old-fashioned Fantasy novels and by a couple of captivating characters most especially that of the story’s narrator, Sydelle.
It opens with an arresting sequence in which rain falls for the first time in almost a decade in the small town where 16 year old Sydelle lives with her family. The rain was brought by a travelling Wizard, 18 year old Wayland North, who as payment for this miracle is offered anything he asks for and he asks for Sydelle. She is to leave with the wizard immediately, to become his assistant and companion as the two trek across the country to deliver a most important message to their Queen – a message that might put an end to a war brewing in the horizon between two warring nations.
The immediacy of their departure is painful to Sydelle who hardly has time to say farewell to her loved ones but the urgency of their mission is not lost to her. They start as antagonists fuelled by North’s disregard for things like, chivalry, or cleanliness and Sydelle’s angst at being taken away so suddenly (even if the dream of her life was to one day, leave and be free) but soon travelling together, working together towards a shared goal , these two become friends and more. But not before a long, long trip, many dangers including earthquakes, dragons, duels and another villainous wizard who is out to get them. And at the centre of it all lies North’s past and Sydelle’s identity – both mysteries that are unravelled to the reader and to each other as the story progresses.
Speaking of unravelling, the beauty of the book comes from the nearly flawless way in which the author weaves the different threads of the plot and of the characters. With several layers being slowly untangled and revealed to the reader, there are different sorts of weaving: small and large , from the small villages to the big cities, from the overall story arc in which the balance of their world rests on their shoulder to the very defined boundaries of the two character’s arc.
Sydelle’s for example as the protagonist and narrator is that a coming of age story. From girl to woman, from being bound by duty and love of her roots to being free and falling in love with North. The mystery surrounding her abilities and what she really is (trying very hard not to spoil) is interesting and intriguing but not as much as seeing her reactions to what is happening to her with every step she takes. This is a girl who has a very strong will and will not put up with anything that North throws at her, who is far from being a damsel in distress as I am from being Brad Pitt’s new wife (although one can hope). In fact, if there is someone in distress and in need of salvation that would be North, our anti- hero of the jour. He starts off as a drunk, dissipated fool who, although powerful as a magician seems to be a long way from being a nice man. He doesn’t even like to bathe. Seriously.
However, first impressions fall apart as Sydelle, observes and notices that behind the façade, the boy too, has a sad past (a real one for a chance) and a curse to break. Sydelle is incapable of keeping away and I am incapable of not loving the guy. Especially when after saying harsh words, he feels utterly miserable or when someone is in trouble he is the first to go to the rescue even if it means facing a dragon, even if it means feeling so much pain, he can hardly breathe after using magic. The magic that shapes him and enables him to be who he is, but which will be his doom at the same time. Sometimes fierce, many times funny (he can’t for example find his way around anywhere), North is for lack of a better word: awesome.
Their relationship is to me, the heart and soul of the book. It is via understanding and compassion that they go to each other. And it is very subtle and lovely as the two change for each other, but never, ever forgetting what was their mission and the things that mattered to them, the family and friends they loved and left behind. Two extremely loyal characters when push comes to shove.
But the romance, amazing as it is, is not all there is to Brightly Woven . In a world that worship two Goddesses Astrae and Salvala , with territories that are separated by being worshippers of Magic or War, war is brewing. Religion, politics, power struggles are perfectly balanced with the romance and in their travels, Sydelle is confronted with truths about her own faith which remains unwavering even at the worst of times. Magic battles, adventures, twists, turns, cloaks as talismans, secrets, love and loss, everything makes this book a page turner and right now, it is one of my favourite reads of the year. I closed the book with a huge smile on my face and that feeling of having read something truly lovely. Yep, still no better word for it.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
“But How in the world did you get here before me? I only stopped a few times along the way.”
“A horse!”, he said. “I don’t know why one wasn’t part of your cunning plan.”
“If you were on a horse, how did you not beat me here?” I asked. “Or see me?”
North suddenly found his gloves to be very interesting. I didn’t miss the way his cheeks colored.
“You got lost?”, I asked. “North, it’s a straight road all the way to Provincia!”
“I might have taken one or two – or four – wrong turns trying to leave Arcadia,” he said.
“You’re hopeless!” I said with a laugh. “And besides, you shouldn’t have been riding with your injuries.”
“Yes, but how else was I going to keep up with my beautiful, beautiful darling? A wizard can only twist so far.”
I rolled my eyes
Additional Thoughts: Angie has a great interview with the author at her blog. Make sure to check it out to learn more the author (this is her debut work and I can hardly believe it) , plus there is a giveaway involved!
Verdict: An absolutely lovely debut novel with a perfect balance of High Fantasy and Romance. Definitely a winner which I highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more by Alexandra Bracken.
Rating: 8 Excellent
Reading Next: A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner