I’m not the only geek to observe that young adult fiction has had a really good selection of fantasy and sci-fi, often better than much of what’s presented for entirely-grown-ups. This novel is a good example of that; it’s one of the best fiction reads I’ve had in q good long while (and not just because it has wolves in it!).
Annie is an orphaned girl (no relation to the 20th century comic book character) raised by her aunt and uncle (the latter of whom is no Daddy Warbucks). They live in an area where moonless darkness falls faster than anywhere else, where day turns to night in just a few heartbeats. Out in that darkness are the kinderstalk, massive black wolves that have been known to steal children away, and are the stuff of nightmares. But when her uncle sells her into slavery at a mining operation, she takes the chance to run off into that darkness.
What happens next is a wonderfully fast-paced story. Rather than wasting a lot of time on exposition, Breen does a lovely job of explaining where we are, and why it’s important, as we go there. I really enjoyed her characterization, too; a few of them might have been a little more fleshed out, but given that this is meant for a 9-12 audience, and that it’s a relatively short book, the author did about as well as anyone could, and probably much better. I know that I felt satisfied by the end.
My readers will be interested to note the interesting development of magical powers throughout the book, including a quasi-shamanic human-wolf interrelationship with a curious twist. Plus Annie has a pair of cats as familiars/guardians–what’s not to love about that? And as this is YA, this is a suitable book for youngsters and adults alike, though the latter may find it to be a particularly fast, light read.
Best of all, the ending suggests a potential continuation of the story, so here’s to a sequel! It takes quite a bit for me to latch onto a new author, but this one may just join a small group of authors whose works I look for in the future.
Five pawprints out of five.