This little gem was a favourite of ours at The Flying Dragon Bookshop. It may not be a typical best-seller, but for those readers who love an author who can create atmosphere and cast a spell with words, Marly Youmans’ haunting tale of love and loss in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect summer escape. The heady mix of Youman’s storytelling and the 40+ temperatures we’ve been experiencing recently in the city left me feeling deliciously drowsy, as if I had been bewitched by a Raven Mocker myself.
Adanta is alone in The Little Cottage In Between. Her beloved but poorly Ba disappeared weeks ago, seeking a lake with healing powers deep within the mountain that no one has visited except in old Cherokee legends. Now her mother has left, bewitched by the handsome James/Astugataga, who desires her for his own. With the help of her mysterious grandmother, Magpie Joe, and the handsome but tortured Pony Boy Tass, Adanta goes in search of her family in the strange lands of Adalanta, deep within the mountains.
I have a soft spot for lyrically written fantasy rooted in folklore. Although this is a very traditional narrative with a quest, a prophecy (of sorts), and magic, Youmans is working with unique source material, blending the Cherokee, Scottish, Irish and English lore that is particular to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having spent many wonderful summers in this area, I appreciated Youmans’ clear, vivid depictions of the landscape and it’s mythologies. Cynthia Rylant is another children’s author who creates beautiful portraits of this area in her writing*.
Marly Youmans belongs in that coven of bewitching fantasy writers that includes Patricia McKillip, Monica Furlong and Janni Lee Simner. Her language is spare but sparkling, full of rich details that stick in your mind for days to come. I am still thinking of the giant, frightening brood of Messer boys and the cosy Little Cottage In Between. The story is quite sophisticated and many-layered, which is one of the reasons her children’s fantasy has such a large adult readership, and perhaps lends itself best to reading aloud.
The Curse of the Raven Mocker is available now in paperback from Firebird Fantasy.
*And now I want to listen to John Denver…