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Reviewed by Barbara Karp for Readers' Favorite
As J.M. Ney-Grimm’s tale begins, Sarvet is filled with joyous anticipation. The fifteen-year-old knows that the day about to dawn is no ordinary one. For it is Other-joy and, rather than the drudgery of regular chores, there is celebration. However, several things threaten to lessen the joy of the fete-day. For one thing, Sarvet is not like the sisters with whom she shares the mother-lodge. A birth injury has left her with a limp, but what troubles the teen is that her mother won’t let up on her obsessive over-protectiveness. What is more, Sarvet does not see the person who would make her joy complete. Nial left on his wanderyar before last Other-joy, so why isn’t he among the young men returning? While she looks, the teen ponders the unfairness of it all: why can’t girls have a wanderyar, meet people from different places and with different ways of life, and grow from the experience? Even when Sarvet finally sees Nial and hears of his adventures, the joy of their meeting is short-lived. Her mother spots the young people, and only the lodge-mother can calm the older woman’s anger. Reeling from the confrontation, Sarvet comes to a decision: she will embark on her own wanderyar. With Nial’s help, the young woman departs, but a tumble down a snowy slope leaves her in agony. The only way Sarvet can move is by creeping up the mountainside. When she reaches the top, the exhausted girl is approached by three magnificent beings who grant Sarvet her dearest wish: to be healed.
J.M. Ney-Grimm has woven a beautiful, multi-layered tapestry in this first story in the Hammarleeding series. The richness of detail belies the size of this slim volume, and Ney-Grimm’s formal writing style adds a touch of authenticity to the story. While the brief treatment of three years in the protagonist’s life might appear to be a drawback (and there are some readers who would appreciate more detail), it is not the particulars that are important but what they mean for the future. Sarvet is a strong, determined young woman who does not define herself by her disability, but by what she knows she can do and be. Even our heroine’s biggest adversary is portrayed with sensitivity as the reader learns the real (if unwarranted) reasons for her attitude. All the characters, human and otherwise, in her world are well-rounded and believable. Sarvet’s ultimate triumph over the limits of her body and moments of self-doubt will have readers applauding. Sarvet's Wanderyar is a marvelous beginning to a promising fantasy series.