'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Review: Dragonfly Song

Aissa is the first-born daughter of the Lady. Destined to rule, if only she wasn't deformed by two extra thumbs dangling from her wrists, it seems that now her fate is immediate death.

No-Name is the despised, cursed child who lives in the shelter of a rock near the Lady's Sanctuary. An outcast mute who has to scavenge for food scraps and flee from those who would beat her, she is loved only by the Lady's cat.

But Aissa and No-Name are one and the same. The kindness of an old wise-woman has seen Aissa defy her fate and now there's a chance that she might live out her destiny. First, however, she will have to reclaim her identity, regain her name and her voice.

Each year, the Bull King claims two thirteen year olds (one boy, one girl) from the island to become bull dancers. If they survive the year, they can return home and the island will be freed from its tribute. No one has managed to return. But if Aissa is selected, this could be her chance to escape her current existence and forge a new life for herself.

Wendy Orr's latest book for middle-grade readers is an epic adventure set in a Bronze Age world. Her descriptions of place and character spring from the page — I could see the story as if it were on a screen playing in my mind. But amidst all the excitement and adrenaline, this is also a heartfelt exploration of what it feels like to be rejected and unloved; of how important it is to be true to ourselves, to really listen to our heart; and of how small acts of kindness have the potential to touch lives in ways we could never imagine.

Slave, wolf killer, snake singer, healer, priestess, bull dancer — Aissa is all of these and more. She is also one of the most memorable characters I've met in a long time.

Title: Dragonfly Song
Author: Wendy Orr
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: July 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760290023
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Fiction

1 comment:

  1. I just fell in love with this story – this was one of those rare books that I wanted to turn back to the first page and start again the moment I had finished it. Aissa, the protagonist, is strong yet vulnerable, and her plight as the outcast surrounded by people who loathe and fear her ‘bad luck’ cuts right to the quick. I wanted to take her hand and help her, she was such a vividly drawn character.
    The setting is unusual and beautifully rendered, from the stark rocky island to the incredible pre-Roman history of the whole world that Orr evokes.
    In describing the story to a friend I said it was a little like The Hunger Games of pre-history, but it’s so much more than that. Aissa must fight her way from outcast to Bull Dancer in order to secure her freedom and the freedom of her whole island from the terrifying and enigmatic Bull King and his warriors. The way Orr evokes the fear and elation of the bull dancing – a religious spectacle where children taken from among the Bull Kings subject lands are trained to dance with, over and on wild bulls – is mesmerising.
    This book was unusual, unexpected, and utterly gripping.

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