1) M’rain is on the threshold of womanhood, but she is restless and longs to know more than just the desert world in which her village is located. One day, while out food gathering, she wanders far, and after taking shelter in a cave, is taken captive by a band of women who are under the thrall of a mad man who claims to have magic powers. With the help of the enigmatic lizard, Glick, M’rain escapes and makes her way through the labyrinth of tunnels and into a land like known she’s ever known. Glick informs her that she is the chosen one, a Traveler, who can transit the labyrinth and serve as the link between the two people. But first, she must free those held by the mad man.
Labyrinth Quest by Yvonne Hertzberger is fantasy fiction at its best. The author creates a believable world, inhabited by believable creatures. Her characters feel real, and I found myself cheering for M’rain and her newfound love, P’puck, as they jockeyed back and forth concerning their feelings for each other. Hertzberger can put a lot of meaning in a few words, and the images conjured up by her prose were fantastic.
This is a story that begs for a sequel—perhaps the story of M’rain and P’puck’s heirs. Loved it.
2) This story chronicles the unintentional quest of M’rain, a character who exemplifies the qualities of a traditional hero in her own small way: questioning, pushing boundaries, determination. She also exhibits the qualities of a modern hero, a sort of “What have I got myself into?” attitude that gives her personality a realistic touch.
In the usual manner of heroes, her questing personality gets her into trouble. Trapped by a rabid madman in a labyrinth, helped by a powerful but obnoxious lizard-magician called Glick, she fights the dangers of her environment and the nagging of her self-doubt to overcome the physical and societal gap between her village and the one on the other end of the cave.
This novel is imbued with a tone of delightful childlike naiveté that ignores practicalities – time and distance and the necessity of sleeping and eating – with the sweep of a magic wand. In spite of this simple presentation, the story deals with basic aspects of the human experience: the nature of trust, the abuse of power, the many elements of leadership. This gives it a depth beyond that of most children’s stories.
One point that should concern the author. I have made a point about the delightful child-like quality of the tale. However, the mildly (for adults) explicit sexual scenes are hardly appropriate for 12-year-olds, who I think would otherwise really enjoy and benefit from the story. Or maybe I’m just an old fogey.
A minor point potential readers should be aware of; I have always thought that “magical realism” attempts to bridge the gap between the metaphysical and the modern world. This book is advertised as “magical realism/fantasy,” but I don’t see the theology as applicable to our world, especially with such an infuriating lizard as a deity! I’d prefer to call it fantasy with a touch of humour.
Last complaint; in the cover image, Glick, in his usual infuriating way, sits right on top of the maze, and I can’t figure out the way to the centre!
Recommended for Young Adult readers, and for all who enjoy an unsophisticated approach to Fantasy.
3) Like all of Yvonne Hertzberger’s previous books – I was hooked from the first page. But alas like all of her books I am so engaged, they end to soon. I can only hope this is not her last story to tell us. Very good!