October 6, 2011

Review: Drinna, by Jared Gullage

Author: Jared Gullage
Title: Drinna
Publisher: eTreasures Publishing LLC(2010)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A young girl named Drinna awakes in a place called the Sea of Grass in the world of Trithofar. She does not understand how she arrived, nor where her merchant parents have gone. She knows, however, the Sea of Grass is a dangerous place. She finds she has no weapons, no food, no water; she has only the knowledge of the Sea of Grass her parents gave her to help her.    

But Drinna is a kunjel. She was returning home from abroad because her people must undergo a rite of passage to control the rage of the kunjels. Out here, in the Sea of Grass, the rage, uncontrolled, can both protect her or doom her.     

Worse still, the Sea of Grass is full of vicious monsters and dangerous enemy races. And atop all of this, someone is looking for her, to kill her...or worse“ GoodReads’ blurb


You know the metaphorical road trip of discovery and maturity that everyone of us should undergo at some point, preferably during our teen years? That’s the essence of Drinna, fantasy style, and I loved it.

The blurb’s good enough, but I think it doesn’t prepare you to expect the depths of the book. The cover’s okay, but the prose you’ll find within is far beyond okay. The style alone is enough to immerse you in the reading: direct, simple but never simplistic, it delivers you right into the mind of the characters, from young kunjel to shrewd human to savage hial.

And what exactly are all those things, anyway? Races populating the world of Trithofar, I guess you could say. I’d rather call it another of the strongest points of Drinna: the world that’s been built. Do you know what they say about “show, don’t tell”? This is it, applied to the world. From the very beginning, the story will  plunge you straight into cultures alien to your own, wild dangers, exotic traditions... and it won’t stop for a second to explain it. Or rather, it’ll explain everything in its context, not in ours. For example: hials. Hials appear, and through Drinna’s reaction to them, and later on through other character’s reactions, we glean everything about them, little by little, line by line. No encyclopaedic entries for the rage either, or for kunjel culture, or for...

I could go on for hours about that point alone, but I think you get the picture so I’ll try to move on.

I said at the beginning that this was the road trip everyone needed to make, and that’s the second reason I’m so crazy about Drinna. She’s in a very delicate point of her life, of her development – no longer a child, not yet an adult – and is suddenly trust out of her known environment to deal with the wide world. That is a state we can all relate with at some point or another of our lives: she needs to remember what she has been taught, but at the same time needs to realize that there’s things she must learn on her own, and that something needn’t be true just because everyone believes it. Her relationship with the savage hial, and how it evolves, is a perfect mirror of her maturity level: of how she goes from “been told” to “figuring out” to “believing” and to “defending her beliefs”. And just as there is this one instance, there’s more examples: nearly every single encounter in the book serves to illustrate a point, a necessary point.

This is going to sound crazy, but I think this would make a great recommended reading in cases where contemporaneous dramas bore the reader to tears: all the lessons, all the wisdom, and a unique environment to sweep us off our feet to wrap up the package.

The only thing I’m unsure of regarding this book is the perfect target age. Any reader would enjoy it, I think, because there’re things that are worth remembering. But as I said, young readers will benefit from Drinna’s rite of passage – just, how young? While the prose is dynamic and direct, the depth of the world and the sheer amount of new things to take in might be overwhelming at early ages.

Frankly, the fact than I’m just wondering about the perfect age group to introduce to Drinna, and not about whether I should introduce Drinna, says something about the quality of this novel. Because if you’d like something different, raw and tender and real, something that is fantasy but that will allow you to feel for the characters in ways not entirely common to the genre... Well, then obviously I’d just tell you to go and grab your copy.

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