Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
Elizabeth Hand remains one of my favorite authors, mostly because she wrote one of my all time favorite books Waking the Moon. I still read that book probably every other year because I miss the characters. So every time she has a book published I run out and grab it. And despite the fact that I am the only member of my family who is not an avid fantasy reader, I have enjoyed all of them (except the Star Wars or other movie tie-ins, which I haven’t read).
So when Illyria came out, I did buy it, having somehow missed its early publication as a novella. It being a short, beautifully written book, it fit in perfectly with good books to read while caring for a 7 month old. I read the whole thing in two sittings, as it is only 135 pages long and the flow of the text is hard to put down.
Apparently this is billed as YA, but I only discovered that after I finished. I didn’t get a YA feeling from it, other than that the characters are teens. The narrator is looking back through adult eyes, so it didn’t feel like your average YA.
Illyria is the love story of two cousins – Maddy and Rogan – who try to keep their bond despite growing apart as they grow up. The story is told from Maddy’s perspective and she is the younger cousin. Despite being billed as having won an award in the Fantasy genre, there is surprisingly little magical element in this book. There is a mysterious miniature theatre, buried behind an attic wall. But mostly the magic here is the writing and Maddy’s view of the world and her childhood. The story is dark and haunting, something is not quite right, but no one is quite sure what.
If I have any complaint about this book is that it was too short! I wanted a little more flesh, a little more meat to it. The writing was so rich, and the main characters so flushed out, I wanted to see them do a little more. I wish there were a few more detours to fill in some of the cracks they were only skated past.
I don’t know if I would recommend this book as YA, but I do recommend it as a great quick read for both older teens and adults. Oh, and check out Waking the Moon as well.