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Friday, December 2, 2011

An Imaginative Tale: Astreya, Book I, The Voyage South

When I first started reading Astreya, it drew me into its world in a way no other book ever has. Astreya is a fantasy, but its world is much closer to us in the US and Canada than the typical fantasy fare of European-folklore-inspired vampires or werewolves, or princesses and fairies. Author Seymour Hamilton has achieved a tale that is simultaneously magical and convincingly real.

The only evidence Astreya has of his father are a puzzling notebook and an upper-arm bracelet that begins to glow only when he puts it on. He leaves his isolated fishing village in hopes of finding out more about his father, and finds evidence of horror, people who betray and enslave him, and, finally, the best friends he's ever had. The chapters Astreya spends learning how to paint with Gar and Lindey are especially delicious for readers who feast on the feeling that they know the fictional characters they're reading about even better than their own friends. The book ends on a masterful cliffhanger. Warning: If you read this book, you will not be able to avoid Book II: The Men of the Sea.

What I most loved about the story was that it didn't follow a preconceived plot outline we've all read hundreds of times, but flowed naturally from the motives of down-to-earth, psychologically complex characters even as universal themes like the journey and the apprenticeship develop. Astreya's adventures are only as far-fetched as real life. Real life with magical glowing stones, that is.

Lindey is the best female heroine I've read over this past decade. She's tough, capable, and beautiful, but also full of secrets. She has a refreshing pragmatism and logic rules almost everything she does. These are two valuable traits for a heroine that we still don't see very often. She takes girl power to a highly attractive place for both male and female readers.

Additionally, Astreya has plenty of characters you'll love to hate: spoiled bully Yan, slavedriver Jeb, and stab-happy academic thug Carl. With sea voyages, artistic leanings, fist and knife fights, fence building, adolescent confusion, wisdom, danger, and love, Astreya I: The Voyage South is going on my list of the best books of the year.

Astreya, Book I: The Voyage South is now available in Kindle, Nook and other ebooks, iTunes, and your customary fine paperback booksellers.

Tune in Monday for a fascinating interview with the author.