March 12, 2021

Torch (The Flight and Flame Trilogy, Book 3)

Written by R. J. Anderson
Enclave Publishing
239 pp.
Ages 11+
February 2021
When we first met the piskey Ivy in Swift, the first book in R. J. Anderson's The Flight and Flame Trilogy, she'd been determined to look out for her family and friends of the Delve, worried about poisonous air and long-held conflicts with spriggans, faeries and even humans. But, because of her unique wingless nature, Ivy has always had to prove herself. In the second book, Nomad, while looking to help the piskeys of the Delve escape the tyranny of her Aunt Betony, the Joan i.e., the queen of the Delve, Ivy becomes romantically involved with the spriggan-faery Martin whose own story needed telling. Then, after a violent confrontation with the Joan, a handful of piskeys, including Ivy's little sister Cicely, brother Mica and his fellow hunter Maddock, follow Ivy above-ground.

Now, Ivy is challenged to providing a safe home for the piskeys who've followed her, but worries that she could never become the Joan they need, as she lacks the skill of making fire at will. Things become worse when a deception is perpetrated to make her appear to make fire, and she is compelled into a betrothal with Maddock who offers to act as her Jack, the consort to the Joan. But Ivy and the piskeys know that Betony will not stand to lose her people to Ivy and an attack is sure to come. Fortunately for Ivy, she can rely on the help of faeries Thorn and Broch, and especially Martin who comes to her aid time and time again. Unfortunately, Martin is a spriggan and hated by the piskeys for being so, and Ivy must hide her love for Martin from her people.

But Martin, who had always believed himself to be the last of the spriggans who'd been killed off in conflicts with the piskeys, discovers a barrow of chambers with spriggan treasure, arms and stores. Most surprising are the egg-like shells harbouring young spriggans. While Martin nurtures the awakened young spriggans, about thirty boys and girls, becoming a true leader to his people, Ivy is torn between being with Martin, doing what's right for her own people, and contending with their distrust of all spriggans and faeries. Though Ivy knows that Martin has had his own issues with her people, she has come to trust him and he repeatedly shows himself to be worthy of that trust. But can Ivy find a way to save the piskeys, from the poison in the Delve and the tyranny of Betony and her Jack Gossan, bring peace between those who distrust and discriminate, and still be with Martin?
R. J. Anderson may be writing about fantastical creatures like piskeys, spriggans and faeries but the hostility between these groups and Ivy's need to balance her own wishes with the obligations she feels to her people are as human as anything we might experience. Mica's infuriating knows-better attitude and Cicely's petulance when she doesn't get what she wants are all too human, as is Ivy's unhappiness with being pressured to do what everyone else decides is the right thing to do. When she leads with her heart, driven by her love for Martin and her people, she leads well as a true Joan would.

But Torch is also a book of fantasy, of incredible people who inhabit Cornwall and beyond. Some are tasked with digging while others protect treasure. They can shape-shift and cast glamours and spells and wards of protection.  The worlds of Torch, as in Swift and Nomad, are both imaginative and real, and R. J. Anderson has excelled at making the reader feel everything from the gentleness of love to the anger of frustration with her characters. Thankfully through all that emotion and otherworldliness, R. J. Anderson has resolved her tale of the Cornish piskeys and their neighbours with much heart, happiness and hope, demonstrating that it's possible to find the way through conflict and prejudice to understanding and love.

No comments:

Post a Comment