- Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
At the edge of Bow’s fantasy world stands Westmost, a small village of women who bind the souls of the dead and secure the knots of the ward to protect the living from the voracious White Hands, shadowy creatures whose mark means certain death. As the daughter of the most powerful binder in generations, Otter is next in line to inherit the power and responsibility of binding the dead, but one awful night changes all that when she’s cast out by her mother. Otter finds solace with her friends, Kestrel, a ranger, and Cricket, an apprentice storyteller, until it becomes clear that her mother’s power is no longer protecting Westmost but threatening it. As in her previous work, Plain Kate (BCCB 2/10), Bow displays the patient, rhythmic pace of a seasoned storyteller, and the spare elegance of her prose manages to inspire both chills and tears as the tale requires. Ruled by tradition and overshadowed by death, the snowed-in village of Westmost makes an evocative setting for three teens to wrestle with their fate, and the details of the vaguely North [End Page 203] American, pre-industrial world are immersive without being overwhelming. The heart of this story, however, lies with Otter and her friends and their efforts to come to terms with the harsh realities of adulthood, the necessity of grief and mourning, and their realization that sometimes love does not translate into salvation. Dark but ultimately hopeful, this quiet fantasy will leave its mark on readers and have them contemplating shadows in a whole new way.