July 08, 2013

Swift

by R. J. Anderson
Orchard Books
978-1408312636
368 pp.
Ages 11-15
2012

When the piskeys of the Delve leave their below-ground home (built into an abandoned human mine) for the Lighting celebrations on the surface, it is a time of frivolity, feasting, storytelling and music.  It is the same for ten-year-old Ivy except that, unlike the other female piskeys, she was born without wings, and must make the arduous journey through the tunnels with her mother, Marigold, to reach the surface.  But, when her mother disappears that night, surely kidnapped by the legendary evil spriggans, life in the Delve will never be the same for Ivy, her young sister Cicely, her hunter older brother, and father Flint, a miner.

Five years later, at Cicely's first Lighting, a piskey-boy, Keev, goes missing and a spriggan is captured and jailed.  Ivy helps the spriggan, who is actually a faery she calls Richard, once she learns that he was sent by her mother Marigold.  She agrees to help him escape if he teaches her to shape change into a bird so that she might fly. But when Cicely disappears, Ivy declines to go with Richard so that she may search for her sister, albeit in swift form.  Injured during her search, Ivy is rescued by Richard who takes her to hide at the home of his human friend, Molly, a young girl who loves everything faery. In fact, when Richard goes missing, it is Molly who takes Ivy to Truro to find her mother.

What should be a wonderful reunion with Marigold is clouded with the unsettling truths her mother shares with Ivy regarding the history of the piskeys, faeries and spriggans, about Ivy's own heritage, and the dangers afflicting the Delve.  Confused as to what recourse she has, Ivy becomes even more enmeshed in the human-faery world when she purchases a clay sculpture of a faery that she is convinced has Richard trapped within.  Determined to help Richard, find Cicely, and return to the Delve to ensure the survival of the piskeys, Ivy must manage to understand the machinations of the human world, the trickery of a faery plotting revenge and the inclinations of the piskeys and her family from whom she fled.

Swift is a fantastical adventure of mesmerizing proportions, from the tiniest of piskey and faery to the legendary spriggans and large, unfamiliar humans, everyone has an agenda, selfish or otherwise, governed by the truths they believe and the affections and resentments they harbour. The plot twists and turns with new revelations and discoveries, mostly surprising, taking Ivy from the sheltered Delve to a larger world of duplicitous entities and strange circumstances, and then back to her endangered homeland.  R. J. Anderson deftly creates a world of fantasy in Swift, taking the reader effortlessly from the below-ground tunnels and nooks of the Delve, to the flight arenas of the swifts and other birds, all visually tangible.  And she draws her readers in, promising answers to questions of family loyalty, community, and self-awareness, while teaching that the answers are actually within us all the time. 

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The sequel to Swift is slated to be named Nomad, and is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2014 from Orchard Books.

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