Monday, January 10, 2011
I was very excited to read the sequel to Libyrinth, a book I reviewed last year, which I enjoyed immensely. It is set in a distant world far into the future, and features a young girl who can hear the "voices" of books. This second book features a different main character, though, a young man named Po who played an important part in the first book, but was not a major character. It often takes me a while to transfer my sympathy from a beloved character to a new one, and while I did come to care about Po, I did miss Haly and the "bookishness" that surrounded her.
The book opens as the new order that began at the end of the last book is slowly taking hold. There are three main cultural groups that were formally at odds with one another, and they are attempting to set aside their differences and live in peace. But misunderstandings arise, as is natural when groups with different cultural backgrounds and viewpoints are thrown together, and for Po, who comes from a country in which women are dominant, things are especially difficult. He is constantly fighting with other boys (behavior that is common and accepted in his culture), and he finds that even his best efforts at assimilating often end in humiliation and embarrassment. Then Po is put into a situation that makes him have to leave the settlement on a mission to locate and retrieve an artifact that may or may not be real - but seems to be the only hope of the new settlement's survival.
This is an extremely thought-provoking book. It reminds me a bit of Sheri Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country, but for a younger audience, with its examination of cultural diversity, how people are shaped by the beliefs of the society they grow up in, and what happens when those beliefs are challenged by others from different backgrounds. Po is a bright and empathetic teen, but he can also be impulsive and careless. His quest to find the legendary artifact in the company of companions who come from vastly different cultures is a fascinating look into the way our beliefs can both weaken and strengthen us. North spins a tale with compelling characters and a memorable setting that will leave readers eager to discover what will happen in the next installment in the series.
Books in the Libyrinth series:
2. The Boy from Ilysies
The Boy from Ilysies (#2 in the Lybyrinth series) by Pearl North (Tor, 2010)
Source - Review copy from publisher
Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews: "This novel is more about politics, gender roles, culture clashes, sexuality, etc., than the first novel."
Owlcat Mountain: "Even if readers don’t feel like exploring the intricacies of Po’s struggles (although I find it hard to believe that you could fail to get sucked into them), the tightly woven action and peril makes this a fast read."