St. Martin’s/Wednesday Bks. Oct. 2020. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250235909.
Gr 7-10–Farrow offers an intriguing female-driven dystopian fantasy for the same audience who loved the “Hunger Games” series. In Montane, where words and storytelling are literally magic, the Bards hold all the cards. They can “write” disasters and dreams, with the ability to condemn residences with a blight, or bless them with good fortune. Seventeen-year-old Shae has always been in awe of the Bards, but is also afraid of the Blot, which killed her younger brother. She has also lost her mother, and the murder weapon was a golden dagger, forever associated with the Bards. Determined to find answers, Shae travels to the castle known as the High House and, with her own gifts for the “Telling,” trains as a Bard. What she discovers there, and what she does with that information, not only brings her peace but saves the land of Montane. The themes of quarantine and deadly disease in the context of current events are poignant; Farrow deftly demonstrates the power of language and education in the hands of the elite as a means for controlling others through propaganda.
VERDICT Farrow presents a notable debut for the YA fantasy genre with vast potential for future titles.

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