by Joni Sensel
Review copy received from the publisher
First sentence: "Zeke's tree wouldn't speak to him."
I knew a bit of what to expect with this book, thanks to Charlotte and Becky, but I didn't expect to be unable to put the book down. I was thoroughly captivated by the world that Sensel built -- part fantasy, part dystopian -- and the story which, although it's a coming-of-age/adventure story, took me to places and in directions that I never quite expected.
It's three days before the Naming festival, when 13 year olds pick a trade and thereby receive a surname. Ariel has always figured that she'd follow her mother into healing and become a Healtouch. But that's before she and Zeke, her best friend, discover a relic from the ancient days before the Blind War: a telling dart. They have only an inkling of what a telling dart is, or even what it's meant for (though somehow they both feel it's for Ariel), but when two strangers -- men called Finders -- show up in town looking for the dart, both Ariel and Zeke know their lives are going to change. They just have no idea how, or even how much.
I don't want to go into any more detail than that, since part of the enjoyment of the book is having no idea what's coming around the corner. There's adventure and suspense and action and mysteries. There's "good" guys and "bad" guys, but the whole book isn't black and white, something which I appreciated. I think I liked the world, best, though. I liked that it felt like it could have been our world that fell into chaos and evolved in this particular way. I liked that the magic was mostly organic, things which conceivably evolve if everyone in the world were blinded by some biological warfare. It made it seem more plausible (not that I have anything against implausible fantasy; I just thought that plausiblity lent some weight to this story). And the characters were not only likable but cheerable, too. Especially Ariel, who not only finds her true calling, but strength inside her that she never thought she had.
So, yes. All the things everyone has said about it and more. It's a fabulous story.