Today we have a post by our very first guest blogger! I have invited the AB4T reviewers to write a blog post themselves, and Karyn Silverman is the first to take me up on the offer. Enjoy!
The Soul Mirror, acclaimed and award winning author Carol Berg’s latest, does something bold and unexpected. It’s the second book in a trilogy, but instead of sticking to what worked in the first, Berg switches it up–from male to female narrator. In the wake of a recent rash of articles purporting to be reviews of A Game of Thrones but actually making outrageous claims about people who read fantasy (trust me: you can’t tell just by looking at us), this gender switch was refreshing. Because according to the Times, girls don’t read fantasy.
And yet, here we have a really good story by a woman, featuring a female main character, showing that character on the cover. It’s as if the book is a battle cry: Girls do read fantasy. I’d even argue that in this day and age, everyone reads fantasy; most of my teens cut their teeth on Harry Potter. The teens I know don’t stigmatize based on genre, and yet this myth persists that fantasy is for boys. But where does this idea come from? From the adults and gatekeepers: parents, librarians, journalists, publishers. And it’s time we put this misconception to bed.
So consider this your call to action: read The Soul Mirror. Or another good fantasy. Even if you don’t read fantasy. Even if you are not an adolescent boy. (Especially if you are not an adolescent boy!) And then pass it on to another reader, based not on gender but on taste.
Adult/High School–In Berg’s Renaissance-like world, the magic being displaced by reason is quite real, although strangely changed since the wars 300 years ago. When bright, eminently reasonable Anne de Vernase is summoned to court after her sister’s mysterious death, she finds that the intrigue that left her brother imprisoned and her father a convicted traitor four years earlier in The Spirit Lens (Roc, 2010) is perhaps not concluded. The plotting is interlaced with themes of faith versus evidence and magic versus science with undercurrents of romance and quite a few murders. Astute readers will see the truth through Anne’s narration sooner than Anne herself does: she has a powerful latent ability for magic, is neither dull nor plain despite her claims, and is front and center in the mystery. Reluctantly allied with a cast of characters even less open about their true selves, Anne finds herself in peril as she fights to save the world from a mad sorcerer. Although the plot sounds a bit epic, this is mostly a complex fantasy of manners with a side of bloodshed and mystery. Anne is engaging even when she is being annoyingly obtuse, and her journey from sheltered girl to powerful woman and agent of change will resonate with teens (not just girls, despite the poor cover art) who like fantasy. Although this novel can be read alone, it assumes some awareness of the world, and readers who haven’t read the first (in which Anne is a secondary character) might be tempted to go back.–Karyn N. Silverman, LREI (Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School), New York City