on January 25, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple
When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the monstrous Houndbreaker, who serves the distant, mysterious Queen-in-Chains…
I’m working my way through T. Kingfishers entire catalog and picked up Sumer in Orcas when it was a kindle deal. I’ve enjoyed every story by her that I have read so far and Summer In Orcas is continuing that trend. A portal fantasy in the same vein as Narnia but with a little extra humor added in, Summer is sent to Orcas after Baba Yaga’s house finds her trapped in her own back yard for an adventure to save a world (or at least one thing in it) and find her hearts desire.
“Saving a single wondrous thing is better than saving the world. For one thing, it’s more achievable. The world is never content to stay saved.”
Summer is trapped, well she didn’t necessarily realize she was trapped, but she isn’t allow to go anywhere besides school because the world is dangerous and it seems going to the park or a sleep over or riding a bike all hold the same danger to her mother as playing with fire and they are not the same danger. So Summer isn’t allowed to do any of those things. One day, Summer was playing in her locked back yard when a house walking on chicken legs, Baba Yaga’s house, happened by to change her life forever. Baba Yaga was feeling generous that day and decided not to eat Summer and instead sent her on a journey.
In the world of Orcus, Summer finds wonderous things. Trees that drop leaves that change into lizards, frogs and mice. A Wolf who transforms into a house. A dragon’s soul trapped in the body of a woman and oh so much more. There is something wrong in the land of Orcus and if Summer is going to find a way to save a tree, which seems like a much more doable thing than saving a world, she might just be able to save the world for a time at least.
Talking animals and strange places will lead Summer on a grand adventure to figure out what her heart’s desire really is. She will face bad people and learn hard lessons but she will have an adventure that will change her forever. Summer is so likeable in that I can relate to her. She is both excited and scared to be on this adventure but is putting one foot in front of another to go down the path she has been led to in hopes she can come through for a magical tree. She has thoughts of going home, as most heroes do on their journeys to become heroes, but still she is carrying on because not everyone is given the opportunity for a magical adventure.
She felt immediately guilty for thinking it. In books, nobody who found themselves in a fantasy world ever wanted to go home. (Well, nobody but Eustace Clarence Stubb in Narnia, and you weren’t supposed to agree with him.)
She was definitely not feeling grateful enough for being on a superb magical adventure. She told herself this sternly several times and then wanted to cry, because it doesn’t help to yell at people who are cold and wet, even when the person yelling at you is you.
I enjoyed so much of this book. I grew up on Narnia and I like that Summer of Orcus shares that same vibe by also adds T. Kingfisher’s humorous flare to it. The conclusion to the story I found quite satisfying and I really did like how Baba Yaga was woven into the adventure. This is a great read for middlegrade and YA while also being fun for regular adults too. Another win in the T. Kingfisher column for me.
“Summer had read a great many books about magic and animals and changing your shape. Summer’s mother believed that books were safe things that kept you inside, which only shows how little she knew about it, because books are one of the least safe things in the world.”
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