Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap
Another GORgeous cover. Anytime artist Nicoletta Ceccoli does a cover, I inevitably pick up the book. That said, there are a few that I picked up and did not finish. Lucy and Snowcap, however, had me staying up into the wee hours wanting to find out "what happens".
On the surface, Lucy and Snowcap seem quite different. Snowcap is the newly orphaned, soon-to-be Governor of the land of Tathenland, which was colonized by 3 shiploads of British criminals in 1775. The Colay people, who have been on the land since anyone can remember are banished to the nearby smaller islands soon after the British arrive. Lucy is Colay.
One way in which the girls are similar is in personality. After her parent's deaths, Snowcap becomes rather unlikeable...bratty and over indulged, even. Lucy is a hard girl herself. The women of her Island say that she is as "tough as goat's teeth". Both girls are seemingly untouchable, and unbeknownst to them, they are both integral players in the near future for the Colay and the British alike.
Lucy's mother bears the last child of the Sunset Island. Why the last? Because all of the menfolk have been turned to stone. The lifestone that is native to the islands has claimed every last man and boy. Since Lucy's new sibling is a boy, she is given the task of taking him to the Stone Garden that holds all of the stone forms of the men. Lucy is not scared of this task, but what she doesn't expect is how badly she wants her brother Rob to stay a boy. In fact, she prays over him and bargains with the stone not to take him.
At the same time, Snowcap is trying to survive. She has just overheard her guardian, Sir Markham and his steward Renard, talk about poisoning her oatmeal. It is clear to her why they want her out of the way. Once she is dead, Sir Markham and Renard can take over ruling the land and claim all of the power over their fellow castaways. What they don't count on is Snowcap's feisty nature. It's not that she wants to rule so much as she cannot let them win. Once it becomes clear that the men are anxious to do her in, Snowcap decides to runaway.
While this is happening, Lucy's brother does not turn to stone. Lucy receives a prophecy from the Gray Lady on Sunset, and realizes that she must take Rob to the main island. The two girl's paths cross, and soon a grudging alliance is formed.
Both girls are perfectly unlikable at the start of this tale. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. H.M. Bouwman has written what can only be called an exquisite story. The histories of the two peoples are folded in seamlessly, and it is interesting to notice that the castaway British, the criminals, still thought of themselves as better than and in charge of the Colay people. Quite the sociological angle. What I like the most about this book is the way that the girls grow. Morally, emotionally, and simply as strong girls. The side characters are interesting as well with my favourite being Philip Tutor (aka Robbing Parsons).
The unexpected element of magic plays a primary part in this story. I wasn't sure of its fit at first, but by the end, its placement makes sense. I think it may have been my adult self trying to categorize that hindered me. Is this fantasy? Is it magical realism? Is it another world in an alternate history?
The Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap will stay with readers. I find myself thinking about it at odd moments, and wondering about the girls. Another read for the deep readers in your lives.