Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands), by Meg Burden (Brown Barn Books, 252pp) was a Cybils finalist in the 2007/2008 Cybils, in the YA Science Fiction and Fantasy category, so I was expecting it to be good. What I was a bit surprised to find, however, was that it was a lovely comfort read, and (maybe I'm shallow), it made me feel very much like my teenage self, more interested in which of the very cute and engaging suite of boys the heroine would end up with than the possible patches of thin ice in the plot.
Ellin is a Southlander, despised by the people of the Northlands. Even though she and her father have saved the life of the Northlander king, they have been cast into prison. Escaping home to the south doesn't end Ellin's problems. Now she's on the run from mysterious Guardians, determined to eliminate everyone who shows the slightest trace of magical gifts. And Ellin's own gifts have proved much more than slight....
Her escape from the Guardians take her north again, where she must determine where her loyalties lay--to her friends, the Northlander princes, or to those who helped her, but who are plotting deadly schemes of their own. Schemes that only Ellin can foil.
Amazon says that this is for 9-12 year olds. I disagree--the main characters are young adults, and there's a kiss that is more suitable for older kids.
Excerpt from Northlander, blithely lifted from the publisher's website:
It is only when Father and I are back out on the road, getting wet again now that it has begun to rain in earnest, that I allow myself to let my breath out in a whoosh. It's ridiculous, but I feel as if I've been holding it in since I heard about the Guardians.
"You knew about the Guardians?" I ask after a moment, squinting to see him in
the light of the small lantern we borrowed from the Alders.
Father doesn't look at me. "Wait 'til we're home," he says shortly, quickening his pace with an audible squelching of mud.
I sigh. "But--"
"Ellin!" he snaps. "Be still, and obey me without questioning, for once."
I nod and look at the ground, stung until it occurs to me that it wasn't anger I heard in his tone, but fear. The idea of my father being afraid makes me shiver. It takes quite an effort not to look over my shoulder or jump at shadows and regular nighttime noises.
The walk home seems to take longer than it ever has, and I breathe another sigh of relief when Father unlocks the door and we step inside. I don't even have time to enjoy being out of the rain, though, before he speaks.
"Yes," he says, sounding tired and holding his coat in his hands as if he's forgotten where to hang it. "I knew about the Guardians. I had hoped I wouldn't have to tell you yet."
Until I read this excerpt, I had forgotten that this was written in the first person present, something I often find jarring. I guess it works here!
Other bloggers who had something to say about Northlander: Bookshelves of Doom, and Wands and Worlds.
The Waiting on Wednesday part: Book Two in the Tales of the Borderlands series, currently titled The King Commands, is scheduled for release in Fall/Winter 2009. Goody!
Although, if you are the sort who doesn't like reading first books without the second in hand, don't worry about this one. Northlander is a complete story in itself.