My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I loved the writing in this book, from a writing craftsmanship point of view, but I found this novel harder to get into than Gabrielle Wang’s previous novel The Wishbird. Ziggy Truegood is a great character – brave, self-reliant – haunted as she is by precognitive dreams of her death by drowning at the age of twelve. We meet Ziggy as her fateful birthday approaches and at the same time, Raffi and his mysterious grandfather arrive in town. Ziggy is struggling to make sense of her world – the townspeople are fighting and strange things are happening in and around her beloved woods. She finds herself drawn to Raffi and the leopard she sees padding around after him, but she finds herself unsure too – are they related to her dreams of death? Her grandfather, who lives at Gold Leaf Lodge, has good days and bad days and though he is the wisest person Ziggy knows, he can’t seem to help her unravel the mysteries of her life and her visions.
Eventually Raffi and Ziggy become friends, despite her mother’s disapproval, and Ziggy learns of Khalila, the trickster, who has returned to make trouble in Dell Hollow and Hushing Wood. Grandpa tells Ziggy to key to everything is the little jade bottle he gave her, and then Ziggy is caught up in a race to save Raffi and his grandfather, and her town.
This novel has many layers and I think it would be even better on a second reading. Unfortunately I have not had time to do that yet, but I think the nuances of the prose and the nature of the story would resonate more second time around.
It is beautiful and magical and I wish I could say I liked it more – perhaps the second time around.
For readers 10 to 100