Two books filled my eyes and ears and mind this past week. Both featured strong young women as the main characters, young women who knew they were different and, over the course of each book, come to know the extent of their powers. Each woman was willing to take risk following unknown paths to save themselves and their families.
We meet Morrigan Crow from Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series as she awaits the end of the current age when, we learn, she will die. Morrigan is cursed, born on eventide 11 years before, the last day of the age, and she will die at midnight along with the other cursed children. Her father, a wealthy business man, had spent those years paying off the locals who accused his daughter of all sorts of calamities, even ones that were obviously not her fault.
But, on that fateful night, Morrigan is rescued, even as the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow is bearing down on her, and whisked to Nevermoor for an adventure that forces her to face her fears and learn to trust herself. She begins to find her place in the world as she discovers new powers that she must learn to harness.
I listened to this book over the course of several days both in the car and at home. The narrator, Gemma Whelan, created a world with her voice, moving from character to character and into Morrigan’s own thoughts seamlessly. I am very much looking forward to the second book in the series: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, with the audio version ready to go on the phone.
The setting for The Bear and the Nightingale, could not be more different than the fantas world of Nevermore. Vasilia lives in medieval Russia, just on the edge of the Russian wilderness with her family. They spend long winter evenings tucked by the oven listening to her nurse tell folk stories. But for Vasilia, these are more than stories as she is able to connect with the spirits from the stories. They live amongst the people who provide them with small offerings in return for their protection and help. But, evil is growing stronger, moving closer to their homes even as the local priest encourages them to abandon their pagan practices and the villagers begin to brand Vasilia as a witch. And Vasilia seems to be the only one who can save them even if it means she must lose herself.
Unlike Morrigan, Vasilia seems aware of at least some of her powers. She knows she can connect with the spirits and animals in ways that others cannot and is willing to be open to the supernatural in a way that others would consider madness or witchcraft. The local priest is both fascinated and repelled by Vasilia and works with her step mother, who also sees the spirits but is frightened by them, to get rid of her. Despite their ill intentions, Vasilia connects with and confronts them, trying to help them see the damage they are doing by trampling on the old ways.
I can highly recommend both books. The Trials of Morrigan Crow is lighter with lots of fun fantastical magic the might appeal to the younger side of the young adult continuum. The Bear and the Nightingale is darker, the evil more dangerous and not as easily dismissed as in the other book.