Roots Entwine by Victoria Bastedo
A YA Fantasy novel published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (08/21/2014)
Joaquin was born unique, a blonde-haired blue-eyed boy with a powerful ability that some call a gift and others a curse. It is known as Phoshat. Kallum, on a king’s mission to find someone with Joaquin’s talents, describes the gift: “He’s capable of heightening his senses, to an amazing degree at times, whenever he chooses, and then calming his senses back into place until they are barely more perceptive than yours or mine.” (Location 2733).
This gift serves Joaquin during the mission by making him an asset in minute detection, but a liability in that the curse, if over-used, makes him ill and in extreme cases could cause death.
Joaquin learns to subdue his gift during the journey he makes with Kallum and their two companions Milte and Pearce, but will it be enough to triumph over the evil that has settled in Shenandya forest?
Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Coming of Age, Magical Abilities, Good Triumphing Over Evil, Nature
This novel, like many great young adult novels, teaches the reader a lesson that Bastedo puts so eloquently in her book description, “A tree standing alone shades no one, but entwining his life with his team moves Joaquin towards the inevitable choice he must make for them. It’s up to him to decide what the sum of his life will be, and if his inborn ability will be a curse to him or the gift that saves his friends.”
This novel reminds me of one of Victoria Bastedo’s other novels, Sunrise Meets the Star, in that both contain a journey with a fantastic conclusion, having to overcome some essential characteristic to triumph, learning the power of friendship and loyalty, and being confident in one’s own abilities. Bastedo’s lessons are beautifully interwoven amidst the exciting plot and the quippy dialogue that make the novel flow from beginning to end. She has mastered the art of plot zigs, adding a depth to the tension that is the best combination of intrigue and of giving the characters room to make mistakes and grow.
One of my favorite things about the author is her character design. I fall for her main character every time. Bastedo gives me enough direct description and supporting action for me to know and understand the characters and follows through with just the right amount of perfection for me to be loyal to the character’s sympathies. Joaquin acknowledges his own choice in being a good or evil person with the opportunity Phoshat presents… “For no matter what, Phoshat is a part of me. It’s up to me to decide what the talent will become, a danger or a tool for good!” (Location 2958).
True to Fantasy as a genre, Bastedo gives me lovely character names that are fantastical, but no more difficult to pronounce than yours or mine so I’m able to read the story aloud in my head without the difficulty sometimes shoved upon the reader in fantasy novels. This is the beauty of a young adult novel and of a skilled author. Some of my favorite names were Malaya, Scarvus, Gridiron, and Shenandya. I was slightly hesitant whether Phoshat was the right word for Joaquin’s ability when I first picked up the novel, but I soon fell in love with that label as well.
Not once does Joaquin lament his birthright of Phoshat. I love a character that embraces who they are and with that embrace learns to control themselves and be confident in who they are and what they can accomplish. Joaquin only laments the fact that others can only see him for what the destruction and invasion of privacy the curse can cause. For most of those that are mistrustful of a Phoshat, Joaquin’s humility and politeness win them over. Don’t all parents wish their children as mindful of themselves as Joaquin!
Joaquin is not always on top of everything, because “…knwoing what was coming wouldn’t help him be ready to meet it.” (Location 776). He is, after all, still only a 15-year-old boy. He is not always the strongest. He is not always the most clever. He is just like any of us and that is why readers will love him.
As much as I loved the world Bastedo created, where she gives the reader a wide swath of land with many villages and not just one remote society, I thought she went a little over the top with the whole blonde-haired blue-eyed versus dark hair comparison. “But the worst combination of all was to be blond, blue-eyed, and the second son. Such was Joaquin’s fate.” (Location 104). The implications with blonde hair and blue eyes will never disappear and to invoke that in the opposite sense in a novel will always bring extra attention to the deliberateness of this choice. Being of dark hair myself, I did not dislike being a part of the in-group and when Joaquin proved that he would not live up to the rumors and legends of his own hair and eye color, I was also relieved.
I was let down by the lack of female characters. I know that not all books will be equal in every aspect of gender, race, etc but the females that did appear in this novel had very small parts and were almost completely unnecessary. I wanted to like Malaya, she has such a gorgeous name, but she kept acting small and childish and stubborn and rude. She was almost the exact opposite of Joaquin and I just kept getting annoyed whenever she showed up as the stereotypical girl. Perhaps she will grow out of her flat personality and into a warrior like a Shenandyan and Joaquin himself. I look forward to more by Victoria Bastedo.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reality grounded fantasy, Sunrise Meets the Star, or easy reading fantasy novels.
This novel was published by Fire and Ice Young Adult Books 08/21/2014 and is available on Amazon here.
TLDR Star Rating: 4.50
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