The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Lark lives in a world powered by magic; since the war, however, magic is in short supply, so the small bits of magic with which children are born are siphoned off by the city when the children reach a certain age. Fifteen-year-old Lark hasn’t been chosen for harvesting yet, and people, including Lark herself, are beginning to wonder why. When she’s finally selected, it turns out to be for an unusual harvesting indeed, and she escapes into the wilderness to avoid becoming a human battery for the city’s power supply. Once on the run, she meets a wild boy who helps her survive the terrors of the world outside the city walls, and she finds a settlement of folks like her—people with particularly strong magic that renews itself rather than dissipating as they grow older. The settings are fantastic in both meanings of the word, and they’re beautifully drawn; Lark’s experiences add further rich detail. Unfortunately, there’s never really a full explanation of why Lark’s power is different not only from others in the city but from other Renewables, and readers never learn why or how magical resources got scarce in the first place. That may be enough to generate sustained interest in the meantime. Shades of Lowry’s The Giver (BCCB 4/93), Bick’s Ashes (BCCB 10/11), Pullman’s His Dark Materials (BCCB 4/96, 11/97, 1/01), The Matrix Trilogy, and even elements of steampunk wisp throughout the narrative at different points, but coherence depends overmuch on the temporal narration of Lark’s journey, which becomes attenuated and a little dull as she faces one unrelated danger after another. Readers who enjoy speculating about gaps that may or may not be filled may nonetheless enjoy this techno-fantasy dystopian mashup.
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