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The Radiant Road Hardcover – January 19, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—After Clare Macleod's mother died, Clare and her geologist father traveled the world, their grief never allowing them to settle and put down roots. But after nine years, they are returning to their home in Ireland—a strange and wondrous house built inside an ancient yew tree that Clare has never quite forgotten, even though she hasn't seen it since she was five. Clare soon discovers that she comes from a long line of mothers and daughters who lived inside that tree and had deep ties to the fairy world. At first skeptical and suspicious of her new surroundings, Clare soon finds herself drawn into the dark and bright magic of Ireland. When she meets the mysterious and (somehow familiar) Finn, her past catches up with her, and she finds herself embroiled in an epic struggle between good and evil, which may very well end in an eternal schism between the world of mortals and the world of fairies—a separation that would be disastrous to both. In lovely lyrical writing, Catmull, author of Summer and Bird (Dutton, 2012), creates an unforgettable tale that begins slowly and gently, gradually and inevitably leading to a thundering crescendo. VERDICT This is a haunting novel that contains all the darkness and light of A Midsummer Night's Dream.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
"A stunningly atmospheric, gorgeously complicated dream of a book." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An unforgettable tale . . . that contains all the darkness and light of A Midsummer Night's Dream." —School Library Journal, starred review
"Gorgeous, haunting, and wonderfully strange, The Radiant Road establishes Katherine Catmull as a master of the modern fairy tale." —Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs
"Katherine Catmull deftly weaves Clare's contemporary story with ancient Celtic lore. The Radiant Road is a beguiling novel with a strong, engaging protagonist." —Juliet Marillier, author of Daughter of the Forest and Wildwood Dancing
"An eerily lovely story." —Booklist
Praise for Katherine Catmull’s Summer and Bird:
“Catmull’s stunning debut unleashes a fierce imagination to build a wholly original world, rich with the familiar shimmer of folklore . . . this atmospheric adventure thrills with complex storytelling, carefully threaded with bits of foreshadowing and overflowing with poignant imagery.” —Booklist, starred review
“A haunting fable inflected with mythological and fairy-tale motifs . . . . The author balances this meticulous, symbol-rich narrative with a light, storyteller's voice, posing questions that readers must answer for themselves.” —Kirkus, starred review
“The book’s greatest strength lies in Catmull’s ability to articulate the disorientation and sense of injustice that accompany loss.” —Publishers Weekly
“Powerful and intriguing.” —School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
I was immediately drawn into the evocative narrative about Clare and “the Strange”. The Strange is also known as the fairy world, although Clare detests the childish word ‘fairy’ and doesn’t want to believe in fairies. But the fairy world in Ireland is real to this girl of human and fairy blood – and so is the road into it.
I applaud this book mainly for the beautiful writing. It reads like poetry, with some almost spiritual or philosophical riddles so originally put. I found myself highlighting many passages and rereading them to revel in their beauty. The first half of the story was indeed impossible to put down as Clare, moving through the human world, discovers the makings of the Strange, and begins to piece together the fairy road. However, once we plunge into full-fairy in the second half of the book, I had trouble staying focused. The narrative became a bit wordy and abstract for my tastes, the storytelling too descriptive and slow-moving, making it difficult to become absorbed in any action sequences or feel a sense of danger or urgency in the conflicts. Especially when any story I’m reading moves into the realm of dreams and symbolism, I tend to lose interest.
I did like the world-building and Catmull’s take on the human world needing the strange magic of the fairies, and the fairy world needing to be unsettled by human love and change. As one of the characters explains it: “Humans – caught inside the churning changes of growth and decay, loss and love – humans long toward the perfect, Timeless world of art and dreams. But we who live in that austere, varying world, we long toward transformation and love” (p. 84). I also enjoyed Catmull’s philosophy on the inner “beast” (“No, you can’t be careful with what you want. Wanting isn’t a pet who stays at your heels; it’s a wild animal” [p. 180]).
Fans of Jungian psychology, dream interpretation, Irish fairy lore, and poetry will adore this novel.
Summer and Bird, although I liked it well enough, and I put that
down to never having been, nor raised, a young girl. But this one
bowled me over.
Right down to having mild nightmares after the first night's
reading. On the one hand, I suppose some would dismiss it as YA
fantasy fiction, but the basis of the "fantasy" component is very
deep and makes me wonder if Catmull has ever done Jungian therapy or
something similar. She hews closely to Irish pagan traditions, the
pre-Christian thing that may still be found there (or may not, I've
never been) and evokes the landscape very well.
A plot summary is probably not a good idea, but let's say this is a
sort of coming-of-age novel, as a major plot point is Clare, the
heroine's, 15th birthday. She's moved back to Ireland with her
peripatetic father, a geologist, who went to America after her
mother's death, and they've moved back into their old house, a
*very* old house with a tree growing in it. Memories of her
childhood start sneaking back and before long she's involved in a
very esoteric education at the hand of a young man about her age,
with whom she discovers some secrets about herself and her family
that are disturbing and wonderful at the same time.
What's really neat here is the mixture of action and
self-discovery-cum-spiritual growth, with an underlying theme of the
interdependence of all creatures, "real" and not -- or maybe-not. In
that way, it's not a kids' book, but a book for kids to discover
some important ideas wrapped in a wonderful adventure.
One thing I miss in adult literature is authors who can't seem to
create this sort of atmosphere and link serious themes with a
gripping plot. I guess teaching in grad school knocks this kind of thing out
of you. Too bad. If more literary novels were like this I'd read
more of them. Meanwhile, can't wait to see what she does next.
But don't rush it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When a girl grows up with fairies in the back yard, then moves away and people laugh at her for seeing fairy-work all around, it doesn't...Read more