February 16, 2010

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

It's fascinating to me how, given two quite similar books or styles of book, one will leave you cold and the other has you at hello. I think about this phenomenon all the time and wonder what quality it is that pushes one over into a reading match. Most recently I found myself pondering this as I read Alexandra Bracken's debut novel Brightly Woven. The cover caught my eye back in October and, really, it is at once so attractive and nicely representative of both the book and the character. I then read several pretty exciting reviews and was delighted to win an ARC in a giveaway hosted by the generous Anastasia Hopcus. I eagerly awaited its arrival in the mail and cracked it open the day it came.

Sydelle Mirabel has always lived in a small, dusty town in a small, dusty corner of her country. An accomplished weaver, Sydelle lives a quiet life completing her chores, helping her hardworking parents, and sneaking what moments she can to roam on the hills with her childhood friend and his little brothers. Then one day an unusual person walks into town, bringing storms in his wake. In exchange for this miracle, Wayland North is given his choice of rewards. He chooses Sydelle. And before she can manage to question why or say goodbye, North whisks her away under the tattered folds of his many cloaks. Sydelle soon discovers the world is not the way she imagined it to be. And neither is North. With his capricious nature and tendency to overindulge, this unlikely wizard may hold the fate of the war and weather-torn nation in his rough hands and Sydelle is not at all sure he is up to the task. At least not on his own.

Brightly Woven is a lovely surprise of a story. In many ways it's reminiscent of a few ubiquitous YA fantasy authors, particularly Diana Wynne Jones and Sherwood Smith. North is quite an offbeat (and profligate) hero and I wasn't sure at first if he would win me over. He starts off mysterious and interesting with his swirling cloaks, his dark gloves, and his refusal to explain anything. As we, along with Sydelle, get to know him better he reminded me more and more of the infamous Howl from Howl's Moving Castle. As I don't number myself among Howl's fans (I know, I know), I was worried this would detract from my enjoyment of the story. Such was happily not the case. Alexandra Bracken manages to strike the perfect note between the humorous and the dire, the ridiculous and the heart wrenching. Sydelle is a strong character from the start. Forthright and sensible, she puts up with only as much of North's nonsense as she absolutely must to survive and, despite his vagueness and his secrecy, her focus never wavers from saving her country and her home from those who would see it destroyed. The relationship between the two of them slowly strengthens and takes on an appreciable gravity and closeness across the course of their many wild dashes hither and yon across the land. The world building matches the characters in both quirk and charm so that it was a pleasure to track their chaotic progress. I liked how North is in turn hapless and fierce, how he can never find his way but stalks off to fight a dragon or a duel at the drop of a hat. I believed in him and in Sydelle. And, in the end, what more can you ask of a read? Brightly Woven is due out March 23rd.


Linkage
Books by their Cover Review
Penultimate Page Review
Rebecca's Book Blog Review
Sophistikatied Review
Tales of the Ravenous Reader Review

14 comments:

  1. I am not into wizards, but I do want to read this one!

    ReplyDelete
  2. this one look interesting a bit different that the stuff we have lately .
    really nice picture off yourself!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh angie I'm so jealous you got this book! The cover is beautiful and I'm really glad the story lives up to the hype. I was worried :)

    x
    Aimee
    http://myflutteringheart.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lenore, yeah, you might like this as the wizarding bits are quite fresh and funny, I thought.

    pidute, yeah, it's different in a good way. And thanks! Needed a more current pic up.

    Aimee, I think it lived up to it for me because of its uniqueness and not because it was "perfect for readers who love Kristin Cashore or Tamora Pierce." I don't think it's really very reminiscent of either of those authors, though that's certainly not to say you won't enjoy it if you enjoy them. I certainly did. :)

    Charlotte, *grin*.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the review, Angie! I both want to read this book and at the same time I don't want to. I'm a bit afraid of being disappointed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Angieeee! I'm absolutely Loving the new pic :) Simply lovely!

    and oh, this book sounds delightful. North sounds like an intriguing hero and Sydelle sounds Like my kind of gal--"a strong character from the start" Can't wait to read this one!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oooh another book to add to my wishlist! I'm looking forward to reading this. And it comes out the same day as A Conspiracy of Kings.

    I like your picture too! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think I'd read this one for the cover alone. Thanks for the review.

    Also, love your new profile pic! very cute.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ladybug, I know what you mean. I think it was different enough from what I was expecting that I just sat back and enjoyed it. I hope you do as well. :)

    KIKA, aw, thanks! I think you'll enjoy this one.

    Chachic, thank you! And the 23rd really is a big banner book release day.

    Michelle, right? It's so nice.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sounds very appealing. We clearly like the same sort of books.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I know! Too bad I won't be able to get the books on the release day. I have to wait for the books to reach our shores (I'm in the Philippines).

    Oh by the way, I just created a Goodreads account and I added you as a friend. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. CLM, awesome. And I love the name of your blog, btw!

    Chachic, man, that sucks. How long a wait are we looking at?

    Also, friended you back! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's the thing, I don't know! I already asked the local bookstores if they have it on pre-order but they said no. So now, I don't know if I should wait for them or just order it from abroad. :(

    Thanks for adding me! :)

    ReplyDelete