A brilliant new novel from a 25-year-old debut author, Racing the Dark is set in a land of volcanoes and earthquakes, plagues and typhoons, of island nations bound by fear of the spirits they imprisoned to control their volatile environment. Lana, a teenaged girl on a nameless backwater island, finds an ominous blood-red jewel that marks her as someone with power, setting in motion events that drive her away from her family and into an apprenticeship with a mysterious one-armed witch. Lana begins to learn the spells and incantations, each of which requires some form of sacrifice from the person who employs it. As Lana becomes more powerful, she is deceived into a sacrifice she is unwilling to make -- the life of her own mother. When Lana dares to use a dark, ancient spell to save her mother's life, she is set onto a path toward becoming a creature beyond her wildest imaginings. This is an unforgettable coming-of-age story set in a world where wielding the power of magic requires understanding the true meaning of sacrifice.
In Johnson's bold debut, a young woman faces sweeping changes to the ancient traditions and culture of her tiny island home. When 13-year-old Lana recovers a rare sacred jewel from a dying mandagah fish on her first solo dive, she hides it rather than accept the responsibility of becoming a mystic. Within six months, the mandagah are dying due to changing water conditions, destabilizing the island's economy, which depends on the fish and their jewels. To pay for her family's passage to the city-island of Essel, Lana becomes an apprentice to the sorceress Akua. When Lana learns Akua gets her powers from blood sacrifice, she's appalled, but soon she must strike her own terrible bargain to save her mother's life. Johnson's story is reminiscent of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books, but it suffers from incomplete world-building. If Johnson can get a better handle on her island culture, economy and magic system in future books, this proposed series could be a stand-out. (Oct.)
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September 26, 2007
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