I began this book some time ago, got diverted by pressure of work deadlines, and came back to it with absolutely no problems picking it up again right where I’d left off. This, I feel, is the mark of a good book – the characters, settings and plot so strong they can be instantly recalled despite a gap of several months.
I did, as you will see, have my own small niggles with the ending, but I would still like to read the next book in the series when it comes available, as there is so much to like about the entire concept, and Colleen Chesebro’s beautifully visual telling of the story.
14 year old Abby’s life has fallen apart. Her mother is dead, her junkie father missing, presumed dead. And now she’s having to move from the bustling city of Chicago, the only home she’s known, to rural Florida to live with an aunt she’s never met. The only possession she clings to is the calcite pendent that belonged to her mother – a piece of a larger stone, though she doesn’t yet know it, that will lead her into the strange world of the swamp fairy and the destiny for which she was born.
This is a slow burn story, rich with emotion and detail, loving characters, a plot with depth and breadth, along with a side helping of magic. Abby must contend with human greed and her own uncertainties, whilst coming to terms with her unique ability to communicate with all animals. The bond she forms with Sand Dollar, the horse she learns to ride on, is beautifully depicted, right along with the reality of the equine survival instinct that can turn a frightened horse into an unresponsive runaway. Good things and frightening things happen to Abby as she tries to establish herself in this new life, and one of the things I loved the most about this book was that there are a host of genuinely nice, supportive people depicted right along with the mean and the evil ones.
The writing flowed along nicely (although there did seem to me to be an over-abundance of commas), and I had no trouble at all picturing the vivid scenery and action. Dialogue flowed well, and individual characters came across as distinct people with depth and history.
I did have a problem with one particular scene, largely because it depicted some details incorrectly, which probably won’t bother a lot of people, but it did me.
In the parade leading up to the final showdown, Abby and her friends perform a dressage routine on their horses, something they’ve practiced a few times in the last month or two. Some of the moves in their performance are ones serious riders (I am a professional dressage rider, so I speak with authority here) can spend their whole lives aspiring to and not attaining. One of the movements (Piaffe) is incorrectly described (the description fits Passage, not Piaffe), and ‘Levade’ is a movement so advanced only a handful of horses in the world can do it. Having these children perform it flawlessly had me shaking my head in disbelief.
I was also slightly disappointed by the ending because of two things. ***Spoiler alert*** Firstly, Abby is unconscious during the climax, so her problem is resolved by chance – it might have been magically influenced, but not directly by Abby. This is one of my personal bugbears – I really hope a heroine will find a way to win, not have success happen without any proactive input. Secondly, in the epilogue, Abby embraces the idea of moving to Colorado with enthusiasm, despite having just settled into Florida and bonded with new friends including her first boyfriend. I found that rather hard to swallow.
Overall, the journey was delightful, well-paced and engrossing. It was so pleasant to read a book filled with genuinely nice people. Abby is a gutsy, thoughtful and thoroughly principled girl – a great role model for her age group, and those things, along with the magical aspects and the emphasis on guarding nature, make this book a worthy read, despite my personal niggles.