Huntress

(I am back in school for the next six weeks so expect that columns will post a little erratically and be a little shorter than usual. Preparations for the hurristorm and its aftermath made my posting schedule even more erratic.)

I read three books by Malinda Lo these past few weeks: Ash, Huntress and Adaptation. All three were good but Huntress was my favorite. Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, with the protagonist, nicknamed Ash, living on the border between the natural world and woods that blend into fairy woods. Ash is beguiled by the fairies and uses her attraction and fear of them to distract herself from her grief over her mother's death and her untenable living situation at her stepmother and stepsisters' house.

Huntress is set in the same world, but at a much earlier time, when the connection between humans and fairies was stronger. As the story begins Taisin, a sage in training, has a vision about another student called Kaede. In this vision Kaede is setting off in a tiny boat while Taisin stays behind, wracked with grief, fear and love for Kaede. Taisin doesn't quite know what to do with these feelings when she wakes up, as she barely knows Kaede.

Then she is summoned to a meeting, which results in both Taisin and Kaede (and a few others) beginning a long journey to meet with the fairy queen, with the ultimate goal of fixing a blight on the kingdom that is making crops fail, animals die and strange creatures appear.

Their journey is filled with hardship and danger but one of the hardest parts for Taisin is protecting her heart. She doesn't want her vision to come true so she tries hard to keep from falling in love. Meanwhile Kaede is learning new skills like the bow and loving being out of the confines of the school. She is also drawn to Taisin but doesn't understand why Taisin withdraws so much.

Ms. Lo writes terrific adventure stories, with lots of insight into her character's fears, motivations and feelings, but she excels when she writes about the uncertainties of love. In all three books the love story portions had the best flow, were the most compelling and the most fun. In Ash we think we know where the story is going to go, fairy godmother, dances, prince, foot search and then LOVE. But Ash has very different plot points and the love is as tentative and new as spring flowers poking through the snow. In Huntress the love between Kaede and Taisin is stifled but difficult to squelch.

Another thing that I really liked about Huntress is the affect that tough moral choices have on the characters. In many stories characters seem to shake off their actions as easily as my dog shakes snow off his coat. But the protagonists of Huntress weigh their decisions carefully and accept the consequences.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is my favorite tumblr, called Draw This Dress – Fashion From Old People. It features Emily Carroll and Vera Brosgel's interpretations of vintage and antique clothing. If you click their drawings you'll see an image of the real life clothing so you can compare the two. The drawing of the outfits is nice but it's the models that really make this tumblr work for me. I love that these ladies draw people of all sizes, shapes and ethnic backgrounds. And the clothing is gorgeous. It's pretty amazing. http://drawthisdress.tumblr.com/