The first in a high-stakes fantasy series, Altaica introduces Isaura, the child of refugees who have joined the outskirts of a community now under threat of invasion.
Danger, conflicting loyalties, young people needing to take charge, magic’s promise, the wisdom of the elders, and spirit wolves: all my happy reading boxes are full of ticks.
Fleeing the advancing army, Isaura and her friends organise the villagers to sail to safety.
It’s unfortunate then that their boat is helplessly lost far out at sea, and that the villagers don’t trust young Isaura.
With perceptive insights into characters and culture, Altaica (which is the name of the land the survivors eventually reach) is a book that demands attention and investment. A particular strength of this novel is the foregrounding of human issues that resonate today: refugees, racism, selfishness, power-struggles, weak leadership, jealousy of ‘the other’, and in fact ‘othering’ of those we don’t like or who exceed our own abilities.
I strongly engaged with Isaura, no mean feat when for a lengthy period of the novel, she has lost consciousness in a magical trance. The spiritual wolf-creatures promised on the cover (the Asena) don’t make an appearance for quite a while, but the wait is very, very well worth it.
I raced through this wonderful novel as I couldn’t put it down.
For lovers of engaging, intelligent YA with strong female characters and hope for a better future.
Now for Book 2!