Sunday, June 18, 2006

Book Review: Snow, Fire, Sword

Adi is an apprentice to a master craftsman who makes kris, traditional swords imbued with spiritual power. He and his master are on a journey to deliver a new kris to the Sultan when his master is taken by hantumu, evil beings garbed all in black who ride motorcycles. (Nazgul on motorbikes?) Lying bound in a rice field, Adi is rescued by Dewi, the daughter of a dukun, a kind of healer or shaman. Dewi's father is also taken by the hantumu, and Adi and Dewi are charged by the spirits to find Snow, Fire, Sword and defeat the evil sorcerer that is plaguing the land. The spirits don't know what Snow, Fire, and Sword are, nor do they know who the sorcerer is. Together, Adi and Dewi set off on a quest to find Snow, Fire, and Sword and save the land. They are helped along the way by various beings, both human and supernatural, but in the end, Adi and Dewi must find the courage to stand up for all that is right and true.

Snow, Fire, Sword by Sophie Masson, is a beautiful and mythic journey through an Indonesia that is a little bit mythical, a little bit modern, and a little bit fantasy. It's a book where the ancient spirits of Indonesian and Arabic myths coexist with motorcycles, helicopters and an absolutely-adorable slightly-supernatural car. The cover of the book sports a blurb from Lloyd Alexander, which seems appropriate, since the book reminded me a lot of some of Alexander's best, such as The Iron Ring and The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen.

Adi and Dewi are interesting and likeable young people. Dewi longs for adventure, but finds that real adventure is much harder than she expected. Adi is content with his life and loves his master; he is driven by a sense of helplessness and shame that he couldn't help his master when the hantumu took him, and is determined to save him this time. The story is exciting and filled out with a rich cast of wonderfully-envisioned supporting characters. I can't say too much without giving things away, but suffice it to say that this is a story of personal heroism and sacrifice on many levels.

The Indonesian and Arabic names of people and places made the book a little difficult to read at first for someone who isn't used to them, but after a while you adjust and the reading gets easier. It's well worth taking the time to adjust to the differences and get into the book.

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