This story was the 2012 winner of the Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished young adult novel, sponsored by Storylines and HarperCollins. As a member of the judging panel who chose this story as the winner, I’m hoping a few wannabe YA fantasy writers will read this review.
There were lots of fantasies entered for the award in 2012, but this one stood out from the rest. Why? I’ll start with the basics – the spelling, punctuation and grammar were good. Secondly, the author understood the principles of skilled writing – such as keeping adverbs and adjectives to a minimum, and not over-writing. Lastly, the judges were impressed with the freshness and originality of the story’s fantasy world - it wasn’t just the same old quest/dragon/battle scenario. There is so much fantasy round these days that writers must come up with something startling and new if they want to make publishers sit up and take notice.
Now to focus on the story itself. The alternating points of view from the princess and the young warrior are intriguing, and add a freshness to the plot. The magical kingdom protected by a necklace that slowly kills its wearer is a fascinating idea - as is the princess’s dream-travelling and her gradual discovery of her horrifying heritage. I also liked the princess’s tutor – an African woman who walked from our real world into the fantasy one because it was her destiny as a magic wielder.
After some excellent editing and re-writing, the end result is a colourful and absorbing fantasy that I heartily recommend to both teenage and adult fantasy fans. And here’s a plea to HarperCollins NZ – please, please publish the sequel. I’m dying to read about the end of Dana and Will’s adventures.
ISBN 978 1 77554 006 9 $24.99 PB
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman