3 out of 5
Marrowdell is a place like no other and Czerneda’s descriptions bring it to life in a way that makes the fantastical feel normal. Then the point of view switches and the reader realizes that house toads are not known anywhere else within this fantasy world. The villagers of Marrowdell take it all in stride now but that was not always the case. Jenn Nalynn, having been born and raised in Marrowdell unlike most of it’s inhabitants sees nothing strange about house toads providing the eggs for breakfast or oak trees that let you pass with a word. She dreams of leaving Marrowdell after her 19th birthday to see the world. Only everyone seems determined to keep her dreams from coming true. Then she makes a wish. Her imaginary friend becomes a man, sort of, a stranger with an even stranger horse comes to settle and Jenn begins to see that she and Marrowdell are not like the outside world. Then she learns that the fate of two worlds hangs on her actions.
My biggest problem with this book is it is just too long at 840 pages. The plot never really picks up the pace and once you finally reach the climax you’re more grateful that the end is near than excited by the outcome. It is difficult to point out an one place or part that could have been cut and yet there is the definite feeling that something needs tightening up. Jenn is almost too naive and it becomes difficult to believe that so many secrets have been kept from her. Various side plots only serve to show just how non-observant she really is. Then there is the magic. While there are various forms of magic within the story the most important is that of Jenn. Supposedly she will come into her own on her birthday but it gets confusing when she is able to wish her invisible dragon friend into human form and then suddenly is able to control everything with her moods. It is difficult to fathom why she suddenly can do magic weeks before her birthday when she couldn’t do it before. Then there is the crisis. First it’s Jenn can’t leave or both she and Marrowdell will not survive. This turns out to be false, a lie to keep her where she needs to be on the Great Turn. Second the reader is made to feel that if she doesn’t accomplish her task the worlds will end, but they won’t only the magic will.
On the plus side Czerneda has created an amazing world. Both Marrowdell and the Verge are well thought out and nicely described. Her ability to make the strange way of life that is Marrowdell seem perfectly normal adds to the magical feel of the story. I just wish the story had received more of the focus.