I have been waiting to read Turquoiseblood for a long time. In fact, it was through author Cecelia Isaac’s preliminary work on this title that I came to meet her. Our paths first crossed at the East St. Paul writer’s group where I was quickly impressed with her writing. After only a few conversations I invited her to help me with my newly created website (can you guess which one?) and the rest, as they say, is history. Now it is my honor to have the chance to share her debut novel with the world.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that it passes the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity with a perfect score of 15/15 points. Here is the official synopsis of the book:
When the dangerous rogue dragon Anya crash lands in an isolated mountain village during a snowstorm, Kiri saves her life. Anya awakens seemingly cured of her madness and in thanks offers to show Kiri the country outside her village. Kiri seizes the opportunity.
At the royal court, Kiri learns that the construction of the Great Mountain Road has opened the way to dangerous magic. One has already been murdered because of it–and with the murderer still on the loose, Kiri realizes Anya may be the next target.
To protect Anya, Kiri begins her own search for the murderer, and for those seeking to profit by harvesting the magic in the mountains. To find the answers, she will have to follow the trail of Pristina Aikaterine, a long-vanished member of a league devoted to the hunting of magical creatures.
Not offensive to women = 1 pt*
Easily passed. I did not find myself physically or emotionally uncomfortable by how the women characters were speaking, acting, or portrayed in this book. I was engaged by, and impressed by, the women characters.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
Easily passed. The story is told from two different points of view, both of which are women.
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
Easily passed. Half of the story revolves around the friendship between a female dragon named Anya and a young woman named Kiri.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
Cecelia Isaac moves readers so elegantly between two timelines, hundreds of years apart, that you don’t feel the seams of her storytelling. I was absorbed and pulled into the pages, scarcely realizing that time was also passing by in the real world. The story opens with a young, illiterate woman named Kiri whose snow white skin and white hair make her an outcast in her mountain town. A brutal and short life is all she has to look forward to until the mighty force of a crazed dragon crashes into her tiny village, changing her life forever. Just as readers warm up to Kiri’s troubles and dreams, lulled into momentary security, you are dropped smack dab into the center of a world 200 years in the past reeling with undercurrents of rebellion over a monopoly on magic. Here we follow the young warrior woman Pristina as she races for answers before it’s too late. With short-cropped hair, a burning impatience to right wrongs, and determination in the face of overwhelming opposition by nearly everyone she loves, Pristina struggles to save her world as she knows it.
I made the mistake of planning to read this book over the course of three days. In reality, it demands to be read in one sitting. Images of Kiri, Pristina, and the immense dragon Anya pulled at my thoughts during the periods of time I had to wait to finish it!
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
The two protagonists are forces of nature in their respective timelines, pushing for action in the face of popular apathy. Both women take risks in order to reach their goals. They cause the action to happen, rather than react to plot points being thrust upon them. This novel is incredibly woman centric, and feels naturally so. Yes, there are plenty of men characters in the periphery, but Cecelia often subverts expectations by using she/her/hers pronouns when unnamed stereotypically male “extras” interact with the story. However, some of my favorite scenes in the book are between Pristina and her husband. He completely has her back, doesn’t question her areas of expertise, and defers to her knowledge of those areas as well. She does the same in turn. It is exactly the kind of relationship dynamic I’d like to see more of in young adult fiction.
In addition, Pristina seeks out another character who is androgynous, using they/their/theirs pronouns throughout the scenes. This is a feat I admire in any author I come across, because it is not something many readers are familiar with and comes with the risk of confusion. I enjoyed Cecelia’s courage in writing the scene the way she envisioned it. For these reasons, and many more, Turquoiseblood earns full points for this category.
This is a must-read debut novel, by a highly skilled up-and-coming author. You can download the ebook from Amazon.com.
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.