This book is a textbook example of what I love most about the children's genres: a strong lead, incredible fantasy world, an imaginative plot, absolutely gorgeous prose, and a lingering depth to the story that I can take away with me and mull over later. I can't think of a single negative. I was completely captivated by this one.
Lia has a botanical gift. She knows the ancient names, ancient uses, and ancient lore for every plant. Unfortunately, the king has outlawed such practices as well as entry into the mystical lands of Brume that lie hidden behind the curtain of mist. But when Lia's father and several others contract an unknown sickness, she and her cousin must journey into the unknown land to find the cure. There Lia learns secrets of her family's past, gains abilities she never would have imagined, and encounters dangers beyond her worst nightmare.
I loved that Lia's ability to wield magic stems from ancient herb lore. She's a fantastic lead, strong, brave, and heedless of the disapproval others might have for her. Instead, her focus lies on the job she must do. Her cousin, Wynn, isn't quite as developed, but he's loyal and brave and makes a necessary accompaniment to Lia on her travels. And their path takes some wildly unforeseen turns. Brume is an incredible, well thought out world with mysterious characters at every turn.
And now to share some examples of Ms. Mercer's beautiful writing style:
"Lia turned her head from their scorn and swallowed down the retort growing bitter on her tongue."
"Dunley Meadow sprawled out in front of them, a blanket of golden stalks bending to the whispering breeze."
"When he stopped and answered her, his words were slow and deliberate, like a steady drizzle of rain seeping deep into the soil."
"The day dragged against the sky, and the dimly lit sun melted into the horizon."
Breathtaking, isn't it? The ending implies another episode to follow. I'll be standing in line.