August 25, 2018

Weave a Circle Round

Written by Kari Maaren
Tor Books
367 pp.
Ages 12+

After fourteen-year-old Josiah and adult (but not mother) Cuerva Lachance move in to the house on Grosvenor Street, everything in Freddy Duchamp's life goes topsy-turvy. That's saying a lot since life hasn't been that stable to begin with. Maybe Freddy has always been too sensitive–something she doesn't appreciate, knowing that "Sensitive people got stomped on by life" (pg. 12)–but with her parents' hostile relationship transitioning into divorce and her mother marrying Jordan Fukiyama whose irascible son Roland, also 14, seems to hate Freddy, the teen finds little solace anywhere or with anyone. She feels ignored at home (Mom and Jordan are essentially absentee parents) and at school (maturing friends Rochelle and Cathy have left Freddy behind). She's angry at Roland who's a jerk and gets special attention because of his hearing impairment and treats her like she doesn't belong in her own home. And she's frustrated with her brilliant younger sister Mel who gets along with Roland and is often involved in his role-playing games (RPGs).

Though Freddy clashes with the disagreeable Josiah, he seems to be the only one around actually being friendly to her. But Roland has a real problem with Josiah and Cuerva Lachance and warns Freddy and Mel to stay away from them, without any explanation. There are hints of chaos on the horizon: Cuerva Lachance aggravating all with her bizarre behaviour; Mel's surveillance of their neighbours revealing Josiah in two places at the same time; and Freddy and Roland's conflict escalating into verbal assaults and threats.

And then, without warning, Freddy is in 9th c. Sweden in the midst of a battle between feuding Viking families. Josiah is there, explaining that they have time-travelled and that no matter where or when they reappear in the past, Josiah will be there as himself, with Cuerva Lachance as a new character and a third person whom they call Three. Jumping from times that include ancient China, the Upper Palaeolithic, 18th c. England (where they meet Sam Coleridge whose poem Kubla Khan gives the line "Weave a circle round him thrice") and the future of the 32nd century, Freddy attempts to make sense of the dynamics between the three characters and her role while surviving abductions, battles, and Josiah's perplexing attitude.

Weave a Circle Round is all about the struggle between balance and chaos, with a choice that needs to be made as to which will override the other.  In the case of Josiah and Cuerva, the balance of power shifts regularly and Freddy is forced to look within and around her to make sense of the world, both in her personal timeline and in those of Josiah, Cuerva Lachance and Three. How it is resolved is all on Kari Maaren.

Short-listed for the 2018 Sunburst Award for excellence in Canadian literature of the fantastic in the YA category as well as the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, Weave a Circle Round has already made its mark for Kari Maaren who has blended a story that balances its own chaos with harmony and produced a tale of fantasy with complex characters seeking to fit in. They evolve, they mature, and they learn. From her protagonists Freddy, Roland, Josiah, Cuerva Lachance, and Mel, to her secondary characters like Freddy's mom and friends Rochelle and Cathy, all the characters in Weave a Circle Round are complex beings who are motivated by fear and uncertainty and follow their instincts, good or bad, to pursue becoming the characters they choose to be.

The writing is brilliant, both intricate and honest, giving voice to those who seek understanding of self and others.
As far as I can tell, crying about something you can't change is a slightly more sophisticated version of throwing a tantrum because the sun has melted your ice cream. (pg. 17)
And even through the complexities of time travel and the characters' personal development, there is humour.
"...and it doesn't really matter for me. I eat paradox for breakfast. I'm also fond of waffles." (pg. 131)
Weave a Circle Round is A Wrinkle in Time meets Dr. Who. It's a wonderful fabric woven of a fantastic plot and rich characters on a backing of science and history. The message is clear that all lives fluctuate between stable and chaotic, sometimes one more than the other, but the need for balance is irrefutable. And, with the introspection and problem-solving Freddy achieves via her time-travels and interactions with all, Weave a Circle Round becomes her coming of age story. She learns, a little later than sooner, that it's all about writing your own narrative and choosing the roles you'll play and that, if you want to see how things are going to work out, it's best to look where everything begins.

I'm pleased to announce that writer Kari Maaren will be joining YA authors Lesley Livingston and Natasha Deen on a speculative fiction panel at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival on Sunday, September 9, 2018.  Do come out to hear these authors speak, to ask a few questions, and to get a book or two autographed.  It's a wonderful outdoor event to celebrate words.

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