Sunday, July 11, 2010
Review of Timekeeper's Moon by Joni Sensel
Sensel, Joni. The Timekeeper's Moon. Bloomsbury, 2010.
Ariel Farwalker is back in the sequel to The Farwalker's Quest (my review), in which she is compelled by strange and ominous messages from the moon to leave her beloved Abbey and Vault and journey toward ... well, she's not sure exactly what or why.
Her friend Zeke must stay behind due to an injury, but Ariel's protector and surrogate father Scarl accompanies Ariel as she tries to obey the urgings of both her feet and the moon. Ariel and Scarl have a "map," but readers will agree with them that it isn't much help.
As Ariel and Scarl journey through mostly deserted countryside with only the very occasional village in between, they pick up two fellow travelers - the young, beautiful, and vivacious Flame-Mage apprentice Sienna and a handsome, mute Kincaller named Nace who happens to be just a bit older than 14-year-old Ariel. Ariel and Nace are immediately attracted to each other, adding a frisson of romance to this quest.
As with the first book, the emotions of each character are authentically and carefully described, and it is Ariel's reactions to the people around her - and their reactions to her - that form the heart of the tale. These aren't larger-than-life characters in an epic fantasy, but rather ordinary folks who are just trying to figure out how to muddle through life (while enduring a scary hissing moon, terrible nightmares, and strange visitations from the past).
Kudos also to the author for keeping a rather complex plot mostly under control. While the physical journey is straightforward enougth, time loops in an odd and confusing manner, somewhat like Ariel's map, and although I got lost occasionally, especially during the climactic scene in an intense circle of stones, it made sense - mostly - at the end. I still have some questions, but I think a second reading is required in order to answer them.
One of my dissatisfactions with the first book - that it was hard to get a vivid sense and understanding of Ariel's world - isn't a problem in The Timekeeper's Moon. We get to see a couple of different villages with very different cultures, and I began to understand how Ariel's world operates. I still wonder why there aren't more differences in language if the villages have been so intensely isolated for so long - but that's a quibble!
One more small language quibble is the use of modern-sounding terminology. In Farwalker's Quest, my review noted the use of "geez." In this book, both "cute" (used by teenaged girls to describe not a baby animal but a young man) and "I blew it" (as in someone messing up) grated anachronistically. They just sound too modern to my ears.
This book made me realize how much I had enjoyed the first book despite my questions. Scarl and Ariel are a complicated and interesting team, and it was fun spending more time with them. Although the ending makes it sound as if this might be the end, I'm hoping there will be further Farwalker adventures - Ariel's world certainly has enough mystery and strangeness to keep her busy for years to come.
Recommended for all who have read The Farwalker's Quest. Ages 11 to 14.