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Treasure At the Heart of the Tanglewood
by Meredith Ann Pierce
It's been a long time since I encountered a new book by Meredith Ann Pierce. Her Darkangel trilogy has always been a favorite of mine, so I was delighted to find her most recent book, Treasure in the Heart of the Tanglewood. Treasure etc. is the story of Hannah, who isn't entirely sure who she is, or why all kinds of plants sprout in her hair, or how she came to be living in a cottage next to a tanglewood that holds a wizard, a giant boar, and a big honking pile of dead knights. It's one of those hypnotic books that sort of carries you along until you come out the other end, blinking.
For as long as she can remember, Brown Hannah has been the healer for nearby villagers, brewing potions and poultices from the plants that grow in her hair. And for as long as she can remember, knights have ignored her completely as they rode to their deaths in the forest next door. One day a knight says hi on his way to being slaughtered, and that causes Hannah to start questioning all sorts of things, from the knights' atrocious success rate to where she came from.
I have to give Pierce tremendous credit for making the flora growing in Hannah's hair seem magical and lovely rather than making me scratch my scalp furiously. However, I wish she'd been more successful in balancing Hannah's ignorance with the reader's ability to put two and two together.
Hannah's passive nature and naivete are necessary, but occasionally frustrating. She seems to be drawn along through the plot as much by the rhythm of the storytelling as by her own actions. The writing has the same dreamlike quality and fairytale resonances as in Pierce's Darkangel trilogy. The language is lovely, if occasionally a little too florid; the pacing is uneven, but the story is absorbing and generally swift. McKillip fans shouldn't miss it.
-- Christina Schulman.
If you like this book, you will probably also enjoy:
Patricia McKillip: The Tower at Stony Wood
Robin McKinley: Rose Daughter
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