Fantasy is one of my favorite areas to read, YA fantasy, even better. So I was happy to receive an ARC of The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover. It proved to be a fun and satisfying read.
A little about the book:
The world of Rasann is dying. The mages in the land have been working together to weave their magic into a net to hold the world in one piece, but those cords are breaking down. They need a white mage, the rarest of them all, to step in and take over where they are falling down, but there hasn’t been a white mage for over three thousand years. Their only hope lies in finding the magic keystones, long hidden, which will bind the world together.
Kayla has been given charge of one of those keystones, the Sapphire Flute, and been told not to play it. Another will come, destined to play the flute and bring the magic within it to life. She has never met this player, and has no idea where to find such a person.
In the meantime, Ember has discovered a secret – her father had the ability to shift himself into the shape of a wolf, and she has that gift as well. When she takes upon herself her new appearance, quite by accident the first time, she discovers a family she never knew she had.
Lurking behind it all is C’Tan, the sorceress. She wants the keystones for herself, and she will stop at nothing to get them.
In The Sapphire Flute we are introduce to two young ladies who hold a world of power without really knowing it. The themes encompass freedom of choice, consequence of choice and becoming the master of your own destiny. There are some sweet and valuable lessons to be had- in a very non-preachy form.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to wax poetically about Ms. Hooper’s first novel, but sadly my brain cells are failing me. So, here it is in a nut shell:
Hurray for a pair of strong heroines!
I love the fact that they aren't wishy-washy.
I love that they tend to save more than be saved.
I love that they stand up for themselves and their choices.
I loved the musical elements, as well. (I’m just that kind of person ;)
I loved that even when you thought you knew who the villains were, there was always something more about them, or their motivations, that wasn't quite so obvious. It adds just the right amount of suspicion and suspense.
I’ve read far too many books lately, some good reads, some not so much, that show the female characters as interesting and strong until the boy comes along, then suddenly she can’t be anything other than a swooning female moth dancing around the boy’s flame. Yes, there are a few elements of romance in The Sapphire Flute, but once again, it is reasonable and within the girl’s control. She has a definite say in the relationship. For me, Ember and Kayla are The Sapphire Flute’s strongest assets, as well they should be. It was a refreshing change and one I wish more authors would take note of.
Do I have any whines and complaints about The Sapphire Flute? A little bit. Maybe I was just too distracted when I opened it looking for an escape, but I had a slight hiccup in the first few pages trying to acclimate myself to the character names and the rules of magic in the world. There was an appropriate amount of suspense and lead- in with the introduction. It was just the names and understanding how the magical elements worked that gave me a moment’s pause. It took me a few pages to get in the groove. That was probably just me.
Second, is something the author has no control over. It's a case of "don't judge a book by its cover." While beautiful in its own right, the cover did not seem to match the book. Yes, it had all the right elements, but the images felt, well, a little juvenile for a YA book. It felt more like something I'd find on a middle grade. Depending on the type of consumer/teen reader you’re talking about, some may actually be put off by the cover instead of attracted to it. Again, just my own opinion and experiences. My 9 and 11 year old children saw the cover and asked what the book was about. I showed it to my teenage daughter asking if she would like to read it- she glanced at the cover and shrugged, not even curious if the subject matter was something she'd be interested in. I hope my own family’s weirdness doesn’t affect a larger audience and detract from the great things The Sapphire Flute has to offer, because Ms. Hoover has a talent for making female characters that really can be inspiring heroines and positive teen role models.
The Sapphire Flute is Karen E. Hoover’s first publication, and is the first of a series of seven. A new book in the series will be published each spring. Congratulations, Karen, you’re off to a great start!