This book appears to be the sequel to the Disney movie Brave. And it is an excellent one. We see Merida come back from a journey, and she realizes that nothing has changed. On Christmas, she meets two gods. One, who goes by the name of Feradach, is the god of ruin, and his next job is to ruin her beloved DunBroch. And the other is the god of renewal, named the Cailleach. Merida makes a bargain to save her family and home. The catch? She has just one year to change her family, or she must submit to Feradach’s ruin. And as if a bargain with gods isn’t bad enough, she must bargain with a rival clan to prevent war. As she makes three diplomatic trips to prevent war, she must also convince her family to come with her, in hopes that the travels will change them and prevent the ruination of DunBroch. Will she? You’ll have to read to find out.
Positives: Merida is devoted to her entire family, her mom, her dad, the triplets, and her adoptive sister Lettie, and she works so hard to change them. But her family must choose change on their own. And everyone changes in one way or another. But the changes are realistic, and don’t feel forced. And the god Feradach learns why the Cailleach forced the bargain on Merida and him. (SPOILER!!!!!!!!) To force him to change and be renewed.
Maggie Steifvater is certainly a master storyteller. Her vivid word imagery hooked me from the first page, and her pacing kept me interested until the last page. Steifvater’s descriptions helped to bring the cities to life, and the imagery showed me places I’ve never seen, sounds I’ve never heard, food I’ve never tasted, scents I’ve never smelled, and touched my life. The characters are developed well and likeable, and the subplots were very well tied in. This is definitely something I’ll read again.
Negatives: This story has many spiritual elements, as you may have guessed, and a lot of it is pagan. I do not mean pagan in the traditional sense, but rather as the pagan religion. And yes I am a Christian, but I was able to read this without conviction. But if you are convicted by Disney movies such as Encanto, Brave, Tangled, Frozen, etc. due to their magical content, then you should probably avoid this book. There is some violence, but it was moderate enough that I wasn’t fazed by it, and I doubt that my sister would be either. However, if you or your teen/tween is sensitive to all violence, then this book is not for them. No sexual content to navigate, and mild language. There is some drinking, but it is no more than Brave had, and no underage drinking.
Conclusion: This is a sweet teen novel that tells a beautiful story of why we must change, and why we must be broken to change. The magic and mythology that permeates this story usually stays at Disney levels, and rarely pushes the envelope. All in all, this is a clean, good hearted story about change and renewal. And you may be motivated to change too.