Sally Warner, help born in New York City but raised in Connecticut and Pasadena, dosage California, surgery is an artist as well as a writer. She writes and illustrates her own books for younger readers, as well as one for the middle-grades (8-12 years old) group. She has also, in addition to being a professional writer, taught art education and has exhibited her drawings (primarily charcoal) across the country. This novel seems to be one of her two historical-set novels; the other is set during Victorian England and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t involve any fantasy at all. Other titles include It’s Only Temporary, A Long Time Ago Today, and How to be a Real Person: in Just One Day.
Eleni is the daughter of a fisherman in Swedish-held Finland; the Swedes are conscripting the Finns into the army to make them fight their wars. However, Eleni’s father is implicated in a rebellion and disappears; she and her mother go to work for different Swedish families as servants. Eleni was born at twilight, and specifically the twilight of the winter solstice, so she can speak to various supernatural creatures like brownies and trolls. Will she ever see her father again? Will she ever be able to live with her mother again? And, last but not least, will she ever see her childhood best friend/sweetheart Matias again?
This is a slender volume, just over two hundred pages, and it’s intended for the 8-12 age group, which I feel is accurate. Older readers, however, will not be disappointed by the book; the main character ages from nine to sixteen over the course of the story. What’s probably most unusual about this book is not the “twilight child” notion — humans who can speak to the denizens of fairyland are fairly common — but the setting(s). The book starts off in Finland and ends in Scotland. I don’t think I’ve actually seen that particular combination before, and I’m really hard-pressed to think of another book that’s even set in Finland at all. It was quite interesting to get a tiny glimpse of Finnish mythology.
Eleni was a bit passive-aggressive for me, however. She would rarely tell anyone that she disagreed with them in any way, but would run away or otherwise non-confrontationally resist that which was happening to her. I felt that I would prefer a character who was more pro-active, but I’ll give the author credit: she was most likely historically accurate and I did enjoy reading about her while I was in the story. I enjoyed the rest of the characters quite a bit, as well; perhaps not Eleni’s parents so much, but the people she meets in Scotland are wonderful. I would enjoy reading more about the woman who owns the laundry and her foundlings, or quite specifically, Iona.
While Ms. Warner has left herself plenty of room to write a sequel, even about more than one character, I doubt it’ll happen. This book is rather complete in and of itself, and it seems that she gave all the interesting information regarding Finland that she had in one book. A second would merely be a Scottish fantasy, which, while definitely something in which I would be interested, wouldn’t be quite so new and fascinating as a Finnish-Scotch fantasy. If Ms. Warner decides to write more middle-readers fantasy or light fantasy, I’d be interested in reading it, but I don’t know that I will search out her other contemporary-set realistic fiction books. 3.5/5 stars.