Cons: immersion broken at times
Pomella AnDone is astonished when she’s invited by the new High Mystic to compete for an apprenticeship. Though Pomella has a book with mystic symbols and songs from her grandmhathir, and has always been able to see wispy animal shapes no one else can, she never dreamed that a commoner would be allowed to apprentice. Defying her Baron, her fathir, and custom, she sets out. Pomella wants to start her new life by leaving her old life behind but her potential beau Sim, follows after, wanting to make sure she gets to the meeting place safely. And others aren’t keen on a commoner rising above her station.
It took me a little while to get into the story. While I appreciated the attempt at making some words sound ‘fantasy’, I kept tripping over ‘fathir’ and ‘grandmhathir’. There were also a few early scenes that bumped me out of the story - particularly when Pomella starts reading her grandmhathir’s book in the rain - and the book somehow doesn’t suffer any damage (nor does it suffer much damage after being left out in the elements - open - for 2 days). I also had a few issues with light sources that other readers probably won’t notice or care about. In one scene Sim tries to pass time by reading - under a wagon, when the sky’s dark with clouds, with no candle or other named light source - and yet he’s able to see the colour of the ink on the page.
Those minor nitpicks aside, this is an enjoyable book. A lot of effort was put into the world-building. My favourite aspect was the wide variety of world - and character - appropriate exclamations and expressions. Sim, an apprentice blacksmith, uses a few that reference metal-working. It was also cool to see sumptuary style laws in place, stating what people of different classes were allowed to do, along with specific written languages for each class. The multi-racial make-up of the continent vs the island where the book takes place, was also cool to see.
Pomella, as a sixteen year old, isn’t sure what she wants out of life, and so questions her decisions often. She’s feisty but she also realizes she can’t do everything on her own. In one scene that made me want to cheer are these sentences; “Now, faced with the first Trial, she needed someone. Not because she couldn’t succeed by herself, but because the thought of being in this alone made her sick” (p122). Too many books assume that for a protagonist to be strong they have to do everything alone. But they ignore the reality that friendship is important, and we all need help and support to achieve our dreams.
The plot is interesting, and the ending is quite exciting. I really enjoyed how things pan out. While it wasn’t a perfect book, it was a good debut.