Sunday, August 13, 2023

Flowerheart, by Catherine Bakewell

Clara has been struggling with her training to become a witch for years.  As she approaches Midsummer in her sixteenth year, the traditional time when young witches are promoted, it seems that she won't ever be accepted.  Her magic is simply unpredictable and uncontrolled.  The Council has begun to suggest that she should be simply stripped of her magic altogether in the interest of public safety.  And when she accidentally poisons her father and nearly kills him, it would seem to prove their point.

But Xavier, the youngest member of the Council and her childhood friend, speaks up on her behalf and promises to help her succeed.  She has not heard from Xavier in years and assumed from his long silence that he hated her, so his offer to help takes her by surprise. Perhaps he cares for her more than she realized?  But he reveals ulterior motives and she finds he is harboring dangerous secrets.  And while Clara initially relies upon his help to rescue her father and her own magic, he will eventually come to rely on her for much more.

A parable focusing on building self-confidence through the guise of Clara's search for mastering her magic.  Discordantly, there's also a striking subplot about a potion called "Euphoria" that bears a strong semblance to Meth and against which Clara and Xavier must find a way to neutralize.  A separate subplot about Clara's estranged mother bears all the markings of the trope of mother-child reconciliation, but is left dangling strangely unresolved. It's a busy story!

I liked the world building.  It's a colorful setting and Clara's botanical magic is vivid.  However, the pace of the storytelling is very slow and the plotting is aimless. While it seems envisioned to be YA, the language is simplified and pitched at middle readers.  It's not even entirely certain at times what we are seeking for.  

<Spoilers>Is the point of the story for Clara to master her magic?  She never quite does that.  Is it to form a romance with Xavier?  They end up friends and a hint of something more.  Is it to cure the Euphoria epidemic?  They find a treatment but never work out who is promoting the abuse of the potion.</Spoilers>  

Overall, I'm struck with a story that hangs heavily.  The elements never quite come together.  The characters change but never really grow.  

No comments: