The Redwood Rebel must be one of the most unabashedly feminist novels I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. As a huge fan of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna quartet (the novels that made me fall in love with fantasy), reading a heroine as self assured and as badass as Alanna made me implausibly happy.
The novel begins with Naomi (the badass in question) being offered release from years of torture and imprisonment in return for helping her captors. What follows is a fun, lively blend of take-back-the-kingdom, escape-the-bad-guys, and learn-to-deal-with-arrogant-Kings. Lorna George is clearly a talented writer, and kept me turning pages fast and furious. The plotting is very balanced and the characters are well thought out, Naomi especially. She’s tough, she’s damaged, and she doesn’t apologise for who she is AT ALL. She’s a great role model for young adult readers, in my opinion, and doesn’t hesitate to stick up for herself and call out those who cross her. The only niggle I had was that I couldn’t quite believe she had been a high ranking soldier and commander at such a young age.
I also LOVED her relationship with the story’s male protagonist, Arun. Though Arun wasn’t quite as well defined a character as Naomi, their dialogue was always snappy, and there was a very well thought out development both of their individual characters and of their relationship. I really appreciated that there was no love triangle, no sudden dawning of lust, and no putting up with somewhat dodgy behaviour from the man (all sadly recurring in so many YA fantasies). The ending especially had me swooning, though perhaps not in the way you might think.
The only tiny criticism I have is that there were often slightly waffley paragraphs from either characters POV. George is a great writer, and was easily able to show me what was happening – there was no need to so explicitly tell me what her writing and her characters had already conveyed more subtley.
George has built a solid foundation of her magical land, Ilios, with her debut novel, and I’m so so excited to explore the countries across the sea in the following installments of this lovely series. Tsumetai has me super pumped!
Review also posted on my goodreads account here