Friday, July 17, 2009

Ballard Bookstore and The Ruby Key

First, a bit of business about a wonderful children's bookstore that is still open, despite the recession and rising rents in Ballard, where we lived for 10 years, (via Shelf Awareness)

Christy McDanold, owner of Secret Garden Bookshop, the "soon-to-be only
bookstore" in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, told the News-Tribune

that the shop "has survived because it is good at what it does, and she
sees a potentially bright future."

"Yeah, I'm optimistic," she said. "I'm cautiously optimistic. . . . I
love being in a business where the thing I sell matters. This is
something I particularly value."

The News-Tribune reported that the "problem for independent businesses
in Ballard, as McDanold sees it, is that now that Ballard is growing
into a hip, happening place, landlords are looking to charge downtown
rents in a neighborhood area. . . . Ultimately though, Ballard's
business landscape isn't up to landlords and the economy, it's up to the
community itself, she said."

"Ballard is changing a lot," she added. "But, what I've found is that
new Ballard didn't know they wanted a community like this, but they
found it and are blown away by it."

Moon and Sun, book 1, "The Ruby Key" was written by an author I've not read since the late 80s, Holly Lisle.
It's a young adult fantasy along the lines of Harry Potter, though not as complex in terms of world building and cast of characters.
The story's main protagonist, Genna, is a 14 year old girl who, with her 12 year old brother Dan lives in a village that pays tribute to the "nightlings" a race of fairy/elven creatures who have jurisdiction over the forests and the health-giving sap of the trees at night, while the villagers can tap into the trees during the day. The villagers have made a deal with the nightlings that they won't harm the village or its people as long as tribute is paid regularly.
Unfortunately, Genna's father has disappeared and is thought to be dead, and her mother has succumbed to a kind of madness, while her evil Uncle Barris has taken her fathers place as chieftan and, unbeknownst to them, made a deal with the king of the nightlings that he will sacrifice all the villagers and the children in exchange for immortality.
Genna and Dan set out to make a deal with the Letrin, the evil nightling king who has enslaved generations of nightlings, and soon encounter a witch, a talking cat and a brave nightling girl named Yarri who is willing to help Genna and Dan thwart their uncle and save their village and parents, if the duo will retrieve the ruby key and set the nightling slaves free. In order to find the key, the kids have to travel the 'moonroads' which are only visible to Genna and the magical cat.
After encountering monsters, a blind huntress and a ghost warrior with a harp that calls up warrior ghosts, it all comes down to Genna's courage to continue in the face of fear for herself and her family. Because this is a quest fantasy, lessons in cooperation, determination and trust are learned along the way, as the team endures and triumphs over adversity.
Lisle's prose is clean and light, without too many details or embellishments that would weigh it down and lose the young adult reader. The plot isn't too simple or too complex, and Lisle strikes a nice balance between getting where she needs to go and having time for the characters to make discoveries about themselves and each other.The plot also moves swiftly and gracefully to the conclusion, which has a bit of a surprise, just enough to entice the reader into the second book in the series, "The Silver Door." There is an air of myth and fable about the book that I found intriguing, and I liked the fact that Lisle kept her teenage protagonists real, so that they had breakdowns, they cried with fear and weren't always noble and brave and courageous. Still, they were likable characters in a medieval setting that kept me reading until I finished the book within an afternoon.
I recommend this book for kids 12 and older, and those who enjoy fables, legends and quest myths.

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