Book One of this young adult fantasy introduces its tale with a map showing an island off the shore of a land mass which includes such intriguing images as a castle at Sea Dragon's Point and a mountain range called Funeral Mountains. This provides a visual sense of the landscape and adds an element of intrigue right from the start. Enhancing the sense of adventure is a prologue that features a goddess, her brother Death, and her sister Fate, who together weave a new world.
But this sense of magic and intrigue received an immediate, satisfying twist when protagonist Ri awakens to a dilemma which also forges a solid sense of place in just a few sentences.
Ri's adoptive father Samuel is ill. He suffers from incurable hallucinations, and she has to watch his every move while solidly rejecting the notion that he can't be healed. But she's stymied in her goal of helping him until she meets two strangers in the forest who have their own agendas, and faces a choice that could either cure Samuel or imprison her in another realm.
The Waterfall Traveler combines an epic quest with a caring girl's coming of age and offers much to young adult fantasy readers. Perhaps its greatest strength lies in its ability to craft a tale with very realistic goals and concerns as Ri faces dangerous plots and counters many plans with her own.
It's always pleasing to see determination, grit, and personal struggle cementing an action-packed story, and The Waterfall Traveler provides these elements and more, never neglecting personal psychology in favor of adventure. Ri is continually challenged and meets these dangers head-on; but always with very real fears behind her bravado, and this is just one element that lends authenticity to the action.
As her relationships and choices drive the story, young adult (and many an adult) readers will find Ri's determination and rationales powerful driving forces to the story line, which lends it a flavor that makes it thoroughly engrossing and hard to put down.
Can't wait for Book Two!