Kit Trzebunia’s shelf-bending novel utilizes elements of secondary world fantasy and romance in a coming-of-age tale about a young woman who must come to grips with her singular abilities and find her place in a complicated realm on the verge of war.
Living with her beloved liege lord father in the remote community of Lost Tree and exploring the surrounding wilderness, communicating with the plants and animals of the forest (an ability she keeps secret), Peregrine’s life is close to idyllic. Although her town is just across the river from the Empire of Din Sul—“the biggest empire in the known world”—Peregrine views Din Sul’s magic-yielding neighborhood not so much with fear but with a sense of wonder.
But after her father remarries and then disappears on patrol, the teenage girl’s life is thrown into chaos. Her overbearing stepmother and Peregrine’s burgeoning abilities to communicate with animals and heal those with grave illnesses is complicated by the arrival of visiting prince Talfryn. Together, the two not only uncover a grand-scale conspiracy against their kingdom but also begin to understand and nurture the special bond that connects them.
There’s much to like here. Impressively deep character development (both human and animal), solid world-building, intricate plotting and subtle philosophical morsels throughout (“Patience, planning, and a propensity to strike without hesitation at the pivotal moment—these were the three cornerstones of power”) make for an enthralling, multi-tapestried read.
Unfortunately, the story is marred by slow narrative momentum throughout. Much of the novel lacks a sense of immediacy, which can be largely attributed to the massive word count. The 800+ pages could be easily trimmed to create a more propulsive read and will surely scare off more than a few readers.
Those who persevere, however, will find a contemplative story about courage, healing, and the life-changing power of love.