Darcie Little Badger, Elatsoe, Levine Querido, 2020.
Elatsoe is a YA fantasy novel I enjoyed tremendously thanks to great characters, a wonderful worldbuilding and magic system, and meaty themes.
Ellie is a normal American teenager, except for one thing: she can raise ghosts. The gift comes from her family who is Lipan Apache. So when her older cousin dies brutally, he contacts her to reveal he's been murdered. Travelling with her mother and father to visit his widow and their baby, Ellie finds herself in a strange town where nothing is as it seems. Thankfully, she can count on her ghost dog and her friends to find the truth.
Ellie is a wonderful character. She's a sunny young woman, but also determined and brave. Although there are some instances of "I'll do what my parents said I shouldn't do", there's none of the angst you could expect from YA novels. On the contrary, Ellie finds her strength in her family and in their traditions. Her friend is also another source of strength, and I particularly appreciated that very early on, Ellie identified as ace and there was no romance plot in sight. It makes their friendship shine instead and there's a lot of joy in seeing them both playing sleuths.
My favourite character though has to be Kirby, the ghost dog, who was a very good boy throughout.
Ellie's family is another high point. Although her father is mostly in the background, Ellie's relationship with her mother is very much to the forefront. The mother is portrayed as a competent woman, the kind you could see Ellie becoming, and she's also the repository of the family's stories that are nestled throughout the novel.
Darcie Little Badger balances exquisitely the cute aspects (that'll be mostly the dogs for me, sorry but they're all good boys!) and meatier themes. She addresses unflinchingly the colonialism and racism and they're both a major plot point.
Little Badger also creates a fascinating world. Magic is real and recognised. A vampire can get married with a human, there are fairy rings in all majoy cities for transportation of people the fairies feel kinship with, and evidence obtained by magic can be presented in court. It offers a lot in terms of plot, with a white vampire being defeated because Ellie's mother claims the land she stands on as home, or Ellie's friend being able to go back and forth easily.
Since it's YA, the prose reads easily, but some passages are extremely poetic thanks to a wonderful use of imagery. I've been very impressed by the onirism of the scene when Ellie finds herself in the ocean. Little Badger plunges the reader with Ellie and you share her awe at seeing it alive.
The novel is also wonderfully illustrated, although my ereader failed at making the most of those illustrations. The artist, Rovina Cai, apparently outdid herself in the hardcover edition.
Despite not being at a time of my life when I usually enjoy YA novels, Elatsoe won me over. It's a wonderful story, full of hope and magic, with a main character who is endearing and a great role model for any teenager who would read it.
If you've liked Elatsoe, you might also enjoy
All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
Comments are closed, having neither time nor the inclination to moderate them.
WHAT IS THE MIDDLE SHELF?
The middle shelf is a science-fiction and fantasy books reviewS blog, bringing you diverse and great stories .
PLEASE SUPPORT AUTHORS.
IF YOU LIKE IT, BUY IT.
ON THE MIDDLE SHELF
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE MIDDLE SHELF