Weeks after the final battle was won, sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister, Marthe, are still struggling to maintain their family farm—and are waiting for Marthe’s missing husband to return. After a summer of bitter arguments, Hallie is determined to get Roadstead Farm through the winter—and keep what’s left of her family together, despite an inheritance destined to drive them apart.
But when Hallie hires a wandering veteran in a bid to save the farm, every phantom the men marched south to fight arrives at her front gate. Spider-eyed birds circle the fields, ghostly messages writes themselves on the riverbank, and soon Hallie finds herself keeping her new hired hand’s despite desperate secrets—and taking dangerous risks. But as she fights to keep both the farm and her new friend safe, ugly truths about her own family are emerging—truths that, amid gods, monsters, and armies, might tear Roadstead Farm apart.
Leah Bobet’s stark, beautiful fantasy explores the aftermath of the battles we fight and the slow, careful ways love can mend broken hearts—and a broken world.
I have always been an angry girl. I’ve had to work on controlling my temper since the age of eight, and I’ve worked to not to let it drive me since, oh, age twenty. Nineteen years of control, eight years of never acting on my first impulse. And I’ve had a fair bit of shame about that. I’ve heard from guys with a fast temper that they’ve also had their emotions demonized, but being a girl, I had the double whammy of “that’s not appropriate” and “that’s not for you”. Anger is seen as an inherently masculine thing. Not a good thing for men, but absolutely not the territory of women. When men get mad, it’s either terrifying or a righteous fury. When women get mad, it’s either “catty” or a “temper tantrum” or just cute. That’s the message I’d internalized about my own temper.
So when I realized how angry the main character was in this, it was with a shock of relief. It can be astounding to see your self reflected in fiction, even if it’s your bad habits. And Hallie’s anger wasn’t cute (because it never feels cute, from the inside), it was burning her up. Hallie is a very angry girl, and this is causing issues. The book doesn’t gloss over the negative effects of anger, which are tearing her family apart. But it doesn’t patronize her emotions either.
I really enjoyed the “this fantasy or wait no we’re in post apocalyptic WAIT MAD SCIENCE WHAT GENRE IS THIS” setting. I really appreciated the diversity of the character (background, secondary and main) which felt like the kind of setting I live in. I was delighted by the stark canadian-ness of the ethos, which included such evenhanded gems as “I hate my neighbours but a storm’s coming so I’ll go help you,” “Don’t ask personal questions” and “It’s Tuesday and the end of the world, better get the goats in”. I really liked how the main characters were not all of one gender! (Guys AND girls help save the world TOGETHER, imagine that.)
But it was Hallie’s fury that made me go Oh. Oh I need a copy of this book. This one hits close to home.
(Also, there is a spider-bird.)