Today’s team review is from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading The Trickster’s Sister by R Chris Reeder
Epic fantasy is an ambitious genre to take on. After Lord of the Rings defined it, great series from the Belgariad to Harry Potter refined it, and Star Wars took it into space, it’s got to be a challenge to extend the tropes into new territory, especially for the middle book of a series.
I started with a disadvantage because I haven’t read The Changeling’s Daughter, Book 1 in the Coblyn Chronicles series. And while author R. Chris Reeder does an excellent job of slipping in the important details as his story moves forward, the usual middle-book issue of introducing an ever-increasing cast of supporting characters is compounded by the mortal sin of fantasy writers: loads of fantasy creatures with unpronounceable names containing too many or not enough vowels—”…he’d been interrupted by a family of gwyllion whose cavern had been vandalized by a band of pwca colts…”
This is compounded by long descriptions of magical spells and babbling that basically involves applied phlebotinum (a term supposedly coined by Buffy writer David Greenwalt to move a plot forward using a fictional material possessing made-up properties unknown in the real world.
Luckily for all of us, author R. Chris Reeder soon tires of this epic-soup, and turns to the coming-of-age stories of his two teenaged protagonists, Makayla and her goblin bestie, Brynn.
Their hometown, Jeffersonville Indianna, is being systematically destroyed by demonic changelings, while their actual family, friends, and fellow residents have been taken…somewhere. When Brynn’s parents disappear, leaving the girls to watch over Brynn’s baby sister, the two friends realize it’s up to them to babysit. And save the world.
There were standard epic tropes, nicely-subverted in most cases. For example, there is a dragon-pommeled sword, a gift from the most powerful warrior, and a tiny magic fairy nut which the girls faithfully haul around with them but which never seem to quite win the day. There was a hobbit, at least he was hobbity most of the time. There was an ancient evil that could be killed but not, perhaps, defeated.
But oddly, none of those things were really what the book was about. Instead—and the parts I most enjoyed— it’s about friendship, and love, and being the outsider, and fitting in. It’s about growing up to acknowledge that you can’t win unless you celebrate what makes you different.
What I absolutely loved about the tale as it moves forward is that instead of being the Chosen One(s) prophesied to save the world (while mastering convenient new powers in the nick of time, of course), Makayla and Brynn instead are friends with issues. Makayla is suffering from PTSD after their last traumatic adventure, while Brynn is profoundly distrustful of her own newfound abilities. Brynn’s younger brother is conflicted about pretending to be human while denying his goblin nature. In addition, both girls are coming to terms with their sexuality and attraction to each other, although in Brynn’s case that’s a little more unusual:
I mean, I’m a goblin,” Brynn said with a shrug. “But I still think of myself as a person So I like people…But I also see a goblin and go, hmm.’ And there was that hot horse person, the pwca, and I don’t know if…if that horse person…was a boy or a girl or what. So yeah, I like girls, But I don’t think that’s all I like. Is that okay?
So even though bad guys have a tendency to come back from the dead, and this episode ends in a seriously disturbing (think Sophie’s Choice) confrontation followed by a cliffhanger, and there are way too many pantheon-swapping supernatural creatures with annoyingly few vowels in their names, I ended up enjoying the ways The Trickster’s Sister used its high/low/epic/fairytale fantasy mashup to evoke and subvert fantasy genre tropes. And I especially liked the way two young women grow, and love, and learn to use their flaws and their idiosyncrasies as their advantages.
After getting kidnapped by a demigod and imprisoned in another dimension, Makayla was really hoping that her life would get back to normal. Or at least as normal as life could be when you had a goblin for a best friend.
But now her sleepy midwestern town is being invaded by shadows. Her neighbors are being stolen away and replaced by changelings. And when she tries to escape, her path threatens to take her to the one place she never wanted to return to: the mysterious and dangerous Land of Annwfyn.
In this sequel to The Changeling’s Daughter, Makayla and Brynn must confront their deepest fears and their worst enemies as their journey takes them to the farthest ends of the Earth and beyond.