Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A teen primer on urban fantasy

Charles deLint is the grandfather of urban fantasy. Without him, the whole scope of modern-day fantasy would be changed. His Newford series is his longest and probably most well-known series. He began to introduce teen readers to the series with The Blue Girl, and with Little (Grrl) Lost, he continues to introduce teens to his world. Since it’s a standalone novel, it’s a great place to jump in and see if the series is right for you.

It’s a fairly standard girls-finding-their-place-in-the-world story at heart. T.J.'s family had to leave their home in the country for financial reasons, and they’ve moved to the city. In the move, she had to leave behind her best human friend, as well as her best animal friend, her horse. Moving from the country to the city has other obstacles as well, since the types of cliques are different in different areas. So she’s having a pretty hard time fitting in.

Elizabeth appears in her room one night. She’s a Little, and lives in the walls of T.J.'s new house. A rebel in a fairly conservative, cautious family, she wants to go see what else there is in the world. Of course, being only a few inches tall makes this a more precarious venture than it would be for another girl her age. And since she was raised in such a cautious family, she’s never really encountered the perils of the outside world for herself. But she’s heard a legend that Littles used to be birds who gave up their wings, and there might be a way to learn to switch back and forth.

Along the way, both girls run up against a lot of the problems of growing up, just with a bit of a fantasy twist. We meet a few more creatures from European mythology, and travel to the underground world of magical beings that seems to exist under a lot of cities. We also learn what it means to make a promise, to keep one’s word, and to have a real friend.

Compared to some of deLint’s other stories, Little (Grrl) Lost is much more light, even during the relatively dangerous parts. It’s an easy teen book with easy, teen morals, but it’s still a nice, quick read to escape our much more mundane world.

Highs: An easy read, and a good introduction to the world of the series

Lows: A little simple, but fairly standard for the Teen Fantasy genre

Verdict: Worth the read, but don’t expect high art

Further Reading: The Blue Girl, City of Bones

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