Monday 20 February 2017

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood - Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

“Grayling, come. Attend me now!” It was her mother’s voice. The calling mingled with the croaking of frogs in the pond and the ting-tang of dew drops, and it sounded to Grayling like music.

“Grayling, come at once or I shall turn you into a toad,” her mother shouted again, much louder. Belike she would if she could, Grayling thought. But, by borage and bryony, I can do but one thing at a time. Why can she not do whatever it is herself and leave me be? Grayling could think such things, hidden as she was in the mist in the herb garden, even though she could not imagine saying them.

Published by Clarion Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June 2017
224 pages in hardback (including Author Notes)
Cover by Jaime Zollars

Summary and extract from author’s own website
It’s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a “wise woman”—a sort of witch—has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools!
Lacking confidence after years of being called “Feeble Wits” by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook!
In the morning, mist again sheltered the valley. Grayling sat cross-legged on the edge of the pond, humming as she scoured the kettle. She thought about dinner --they still had parsnips and carrots in the ground and perhaps there were even enough apples left for an apple tart.
With cream, if they only had cream. She licked her lips.
I know I go on about covers quite a lot – but this is delightful and so true to the spirit of the book. (You can read about Jaime Zollars’ process for creating the cover here – it’s fascinating.) We see Grayling and Pook setting out on their adventures in a wood – all part of the story. The style is detailed yet gentle in tone, and there’s a touch of medieval European fantasy in her appearance which is exactly right.

Yet she has a touch of determination – no frilly-gowned princesses here – and there’s a hint of menace in the dark trees she’s entering. There will be threat and magic used for horrible purposes, and it will be down to Grayling to do something about it.

As you can see from the extract, she doesn’t have the best of relationships with her wise-woman mother. Matter get much worse, of course, and she learns a great deal about resilience and self-belief. One of the most appealing aspects of the story is the odd assortment of colleagues she picks up along the way – and the message that you don’t have to totally like someone to get along. 

You can also see there’s a strong flavour of bygone language which some readers will love, and some will find off-putting. Karen Cushman is known and celebrated for her historical novels (this is her first fantasy) and there’s a wealth of detail, including notes at the back, which the right sort of reader will absolutely love.
I would say Grayling’s Song is ideal for those who already enjoy witchy books and fancy something a little different. Because of its hopeful tone, it is suitable for experienced young readers who need a challenge. Despite some peril along the way, the humour (not least from a shape-changing enchanted mouse) means there’s nothing here to upset someone in a UK primary school.
In summary, a gentle historical fantasy with plenty of heart and enchantment.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

1 comment:

Hiya, thanks for stopping by, it is always nice to hear what you have to say, so do leave a comment if you have time.