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Reviewed by:
  • The Star Shard
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Durbin, Frederic S. The Star Shard. Houghton, 2012. [320p]. ISBN 978-0-547-37025-5 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-7.

Thunder Rake is a mobile city that sits atop a giant wagon, and twelve-year-old Cymbril is just one of the many slaves beholden to its iron-fisted master, Rombol. During the day, Cymbril is forced to sing to attract customers to Rombol's traveling market, but at night the young girl often escapes to explore the many decks of the Rake, befriending its odd inhabitants and discovering shadowy and enchanted rooms unknown to the city's master or its crew. During her nightly wanderings she meets Loric, a faerie boy who tells Cymbril that she too is part Sidhe, and the two begin to plan to flee the Rake completely and make for Loric's homeland. Harpies, murderous dogs, two evil witches, and Rombol himself manage to foil each of their plans, however, and the two are soon left to choose between their separate freedom or staying together. Evocative imagery, an enthralling world, and a fully realized storyline that does not depend on future installments make this a standout among recent pre-YA fantasies. The charm of old-school fantasy blends with the mechanics of steampunk aboard the Rake, making the massive city feel both menacing in its size and enchanting in its secrets. Cymbril's longing for freedom is deeply felt, and even as she acknowledges her privileges as one of the more well-kept slaves, her desire to become more than the possession of another person and find a life of her own will resonate with young readers just coming into their independence. Durbin's quiet, reverent tone does slow some of the more action-driven scenes, but the lush, almost poetic prose is something readers will want to linger over anyway. [End Page 348]



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