Sunday, April 05, 2020

Lalani of the Distant Sea, by Erin Estrada Kelly

Inspired by Philippine mythology, this fable tells the story of a little girl named Lalani who must save her dying people by crossing from her island to the next door one where Mount Isa lies.  There, a golden flower will bring everything you wish.  Countless great warriors in the best ships have tried to make the trip before and none have succeeded.  How possibly could twelve year-old Lalani in a tiny boat make it?

A complex story involving a series of mysteries that gradually come together.  The narrative itself is a bit of magic, combining not just Lalani's story, but also the tales of dozens of other characters.  Kelly continues through to the end to introduce more and more characters, often in a second-person voice that feels quite immediate, like a campfire story.  The quantity of names and beasts gets overwhelming, but the story's richness is the payoff. 

While individual moments can get quite dark (there's a lot of death), general themes about self-discovery and standing up for what is right give this some heft.  I enjoyed the richness and the internal consistency of the story.  I'm not sure that I've truly appreciated it from only one reading.

No comments: