*March 23rd, 2010 EgmontUSA
When Wayland North brings rain to a region that's been dry for over ten years, he's promised anything he'd like as a reward. He chooses the village elder's daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she's hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she's heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.
The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North's dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.It's like Alexandra Bracken is a wizard who has infused Brightly Woven with a certain majestic magic.
To be honest, I haven't read a lot of fantasy recently. Since the pandemic a few years ago where [the genre] became commercialized to the point of repetitive "epic journeys" with preposterously named characters and overtly pompous language, for the most part I found solace in science fiction and contemporary, paranormal and mystery - just about anything else. However, when I heard about Brightly Woven and saw its pretty cover1, I must admit, my interest was piqued.
I'm pleased to report that I was not disappointed by my foray into fantasy once again. There's some sort of very magnetic - an almost charismatic - quality to Brightly Woven. It's a very cute story with lots of sweet moments, lots of action-packed moments. In terms of world-building, Bracken has painted - or woven, if you prefer ;) - a bright and vivid picture. It's familiar enough that we can relate to it, but simultaneously exotic enough that it stimulates the imagination to remain firmly planted in the fantasy realm.
Sydelle is also quite the leading lady. The story Bracken has sketched around her is an intriguing one to unravel, for sure. Unfortunately, characterization [of her, North, the antagonist, etc.] sort of fell through and wasn't quite as strong as it should've been. It would've been nice to see to a little more depth, a little more development to them and their relationships so that less suspension of disbelief would've been needed.
The "journey" of Brightly Woven is pretty remarkable, and it's great to see the characters embark on it. Plot-wise and diction-wise, it felt like there were moments of inconsistency and again, could've been stronger.
And yet - in spite of all this - there's just something about Brightly Woven that really draws [you] in. Once the slightly incredible beginning is past and the story really starts, this is one book that's immensely hard to put down.
Seriously - Alex Bracken must be a wizard of some sort because Brightly Woven is a magical read, one of the top ones of the year thus far.
1I actually prefer the cover on the ARC over the one on the finished copy. It's the same image, but I personally find the more vivid and brighter colours of the ARC more eye-catching than that of the finalized one. Here's an image of the original colours, in case anyone wanted to compare.