A familiar landscape is revitalized with magic

Ingledove by Marly Youmans

What a strange book. I’m still trying to figure it out. The story  passed by much too fast. I started it two hours ago and now it’s done, leaving me in a state of muddleheaded shock.

A quick summary: What initially began as a trip to visit their mother’s grave, Ingledove and her brother Lang end up wandering the mountains of the Appalachia. Ingledove is worried and uneasy about this because her brother seems to be enchanted by a mysterious voice that rings across the lake and mountains, be-spelling him, and when she voices her concerns, her brother only teases and disregards them. Troubles soon arise, however, and Ingledove finds that she can no longer hide, scared, behind her brother and expect him to take care of her.  The roles are reversed, and she must find courage and determination inside of herself in order to save those she cares for. Along the way are entrancing descriptions of the hidden world of Adantis along with Ingledove’s discovery of her heritage.

First, the good comment: the world of Adantis is very vividly described, with so much detail about the landscape and the culture.  Diana Wynne Jones wrote a review for the book and this is an excerpt of what she said, “I loved the way the Hidden Land materializes around you, as you read, as naturally as breathing.”  I definitely agree on that point. The fact that I had to spend a moment or two, blinking and looking around,  readjusting to the “real world” after speeding through this book is partly because my mind was completely there, amongst the blue mountains, the silver lakes and the mysterious caves. I got a sense of wide open emptiness and ancient hollow silences. I also liked the idea of the Adantans being a mixture of peoples from northern Britain and Cherokee . That was very unique.

Here’s an excerpt from Marly Youmans’ website about the world of Adantis, taken from under an interview with her about her other Adantis novel The Curse of the Raven Mocker:

I was not so much “inspired” as begged into the writing of this book.  I wrote it in the fall of 2000 because my daughter Rebecca asked for a fantasy.  She was a rather advanced reader and addicted to magical worlds, as she still is three years later.  In one way I pleased her and in another I denied her, because many of her favorite writers were from the British Isles or else were Americans who wrote as though born in the very Old World–with castles and wizards and dragons and an English landscape.  While I gave her plenty of the strange and magical, I stuck to the world of my childhood–the Carolina mountains and the folklore of that region, both Scots-Irish and Cherokee.

There is a tendency, when it comes to writing fantasy, to base the story in the sort of, stereotypical, European landscape, I guess because that’s where the familiar fairy tales and magic stories that dominate most of our classic fantasy originate from.  There’s nothing wrong with that. But this novel had extra allure because it was different. And Marly Youmans wrote about a world that she knew and there is a sense of ease and realism in her world that comes naturally with this. Adantis, with its wild and vast American backdrop, gave the story a breath of fresh air. I think now more authors, including many of my favorite fantasy authors,  are beginning to branch out in terms of influence of setting and culture in their stories. Like the Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale or Tanith Lee’s Claidi Collection. Take a fairy tale from another culture and weave it into a context that is familiar to fantasy readers, yet unique and you have a potentially interesting story.

Now, for what I didn’t like: I was having a hard time placing the story in terms of plot. I don’t even know what I mean by that. Let’s just say I was constantly feeling like I was missing out some important information, and I had to stop many times in the novel to re-read bits because something didn’t make sense or seemed to come out of nowhere in the plot. In fact, I think my roommates think I’m crazy now because, several times, I vaguely remember crying out “What?! Why don’t I understand this!?” in frustration.

All in all, the book was still a very interesting piece of work and I might re-read it if I have time. I think I’ll get my hands on The Curse of the Raven Mocker if I see it. Has anyone read it yet?

Rating: 4/5 Blue Mountain Peaks

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2 thoughts on “A familiar landscape is revitalized with magic

  1. Sharry,

    While checking to see what was up about my upcoming book, “Val/Orson” (you might like it! very American and takes place in, on, or under trees–California redwoods, in this case), I found you. Sorry that I muddled you in spots, although that may be, alas, the price of following a poet who writes fiction (poetry tends to pare down and leave out certain dull connective tissues). I’m glad you liked my blue and mountainous world.

    Good cheer,
    Marly

  2. Thank you for your comment! I still loved the book despite being a little confused. I’ll admit, it could have been because I was sitting up really really late trying to finish it and therefore might have sped through some important details in the plot!

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