But there were whispers, as she grew, of another self: of the Lady's rejected first daughter, born imperfect with two extra thumbs. The silent girl looks at the scars on her wrists and wonders, but she has more pressing concerns. The villagers blame her bad luck for the tribute the Bull King now demands of them: two youths given each spring to dance with his bulls and die for his god's glory. And the servants hate and fear the unnatural way the animals all come to her. For Aissa, though, this bond with creatures of fur and scale is the first clue in finding the true self that no one else can give to her, or take away.
Wendy Orr, the author of Nim's Island, introduces a resourceful and resilient heroine for slightly older readers. Inspired by an archeological trip to the island of Crete, where frescoes show figures leaping over the backs of bulls, Orr weaves an intriguing mythological portrayal of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization. Lyrically written and refreshingly unpredictable, Dragonfly Song suggests a fascinating origin for the legend of the Minotaur and his dark tribute.
A Gorgeous Adventure
Aissa is the first-born daughter of the Lady of an island, and as such she should be raised in a life of privilege and learning--destined to be the Lady when Aissa's mother is too old to do the duties that come with the title. But Aissa is born with extra thumbs, and the Lady determines that the goddess won't want an imperfect person serving as the Lady, and so Aissa is given to one of the wise women of the island so that she can throw her off a cliff. Kelya, the wise woman, can't bring herself to kill the infant, and she takes Aissa to another family that has recently lost a child.
Thus begins a story steeped in pain and beauty as Aissa's path leads her to lose her home, her name, and her voice, but she never loses her wits and her heart.
Part fantasy, part fairy tale, and part myth, DRAGONFLY SONG is completely gorgeous. Wendy Orr, the author, does a fantastic job drawing Aissa's world and the characters in it. The novel is written in both prose and free verse, and the poetry segments add depth and urgency to pivotal moments in the story. Aissa is a heroine to be admired. As a young child living with the family that takes her in, she learns to love. When life leads her to be a servant with no name, she learns to survive. When she finds a place with the wise women of the island, she learns the peace that comes with security. When she's chosen to be the island's tribute to the raiders who will take her to dance with their bulls, she learns what it is to have friends and to face death. Each segment of her life is integral to making her a Lady who will serve the goddess--and the island's people--well.
Aissa is wonderfully resilient, and although my heart broke for her constantly as I read, I never doubted that this fierce, smart, loving girl would triumph despite the many forces working against her.
I cannot recommend DRAGONFLY SONG enough. I was sad to turn the final page and leave Aissa behind, but I suspect she'll stay with me for a long while.
My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.