A Dragonbird in the Fern

North Star. Aug. 2021. 352p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781635830651.
Gr 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Jiara is struggling with the murder of her beloved older sister Scilla. She is also riddled with fear that Scilla’s ghost will hurt her family because she’s a spirit that won’t rest until they exact vengeance on her murderer. Jiara learns that a witness saw the killer, someone from the foreign country of Farnskag and she jumps at the chance to travel there. Awkwardly, the opportunity arises because she is marrying the King of Farnskag, who is Scillia’s former fiancé, creating a confusing mix of feelings as her attraction to him grows. While she slowly learns to acclimate to a foreign land, she gains allies, though she’s never quite sure who to trust. This novel is full of detailed worldbuilding as Rueckert creates multiple cultures with their own belief systems and history. This debut fantasy in a unique imagining of a young girl grappling with the new burden placed upon her as queen of a country where she doesn’t speak the language, while attempting to protect her family and put her sister to rest. Jiara has difficulty learning the new language partially because she appears to have a learning disability similar to dyslexia. Jiara may start off sheltered and afraid, but by facing her fears she shows her true bravery and earns respect.
VERDICT A powerful story of love, vengeance, and learning to trust yourself, this is a must purchase for all libraries.

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