Black Dogs by Ursula Vernon
The world was green and grey, balanced on a serrated knife of pine and madrone, stretching as far as the eye could see.
Lyra is fleeing for her life. She has just seen her family massacred by her half-brother and his men. She escaped, more through luck than skill, and is now injured and in alone in the world. But luck is on her side, for a dog-soldier, Sadrao has found her. Loyal and protective, as dog soldiers were designed and created to be, he takes her under his care and brings her on his journey. A journey involving elves, half-elf possible murderers, sorcerers, and a whole heap more of adventure.
I’ve been a fan of Ursula Vernon’s ever since I stumbled over her Digger comic way back when. This is her first book, and in the introduction she does warn the reader of that very fact, and in fact apologises for it. She started it when she was sixteen, and so is full of “mistakes” and heads in directions she possibly wouldn’t take now. All that being said I found these two books to be hugely entertaining, and great fun.
Vernon may have been young, but she sure wasn’t sentimental about plenty of things. The unicorn that shows up in this story is somewhat different than you may expect for example. And there is plenty of grown-up ideas that hover there at the edges, she does a far better job of handling the fact that the world is rarely black and white than many adult authors do.
And I just love her way of telling a story. And her characters. They are never dull. Lyra has a great voice, and although she grows and develops from the lost little girl, she always remains, at heart, that same person in many many ways. A stronger person, more capable, yes. But with that same inner sarcasm and knowledge that you can’t take yourself too seriously all the time.
And I never got the feeling that she was any sort of a Mary-Sue, she was never going to save the world through her innate awesomeness, but maybe she had a chance at saving herself and her friends through hard work and luck, and with a little help from her friends.
Besides, this book has a dog-soldier. That is awesome enough to make me reread it And the fact that it acknowledges the fact that women get periods by having a character buy supplies before heading off adventuring. Double-awesome.
Other reviews: Jean Little Library ; if you’re reviewed this let me know and I’ll add a link