Lots of people get weird about the tens, whether it’s turning 30 or 40 or 50. (Twenty seems exempt, because 21 is the big milestone in that neck of the lifespan.) There’s something about the prospect of having a zero in your age that can make you feel like you’re staring into the abyss. You may have thought your youth was over before, but now it’s really over.
In Amy Unbounded: Belondweg Blossoming (Pug House Press), the title character is right on the verge of turning 10, and the prospect has left her with mixed emotions. Sure, there’s the excitement of moving closer to maturity, but she’s already old enough to recognize the pleasures of a relatively carefree childhood. Her slightly younger friend Bran has high hopes for the coming summer, though.
“We’ll look down from this tower in three months’ time and everything will look different,” he muses.
He’s right, but not quite in the ways he expected. Not all of the summer’s transitions are entirely pleasant, and not everything goes quite as Amy might have wished, but she learns a lot. She sees the lives of family and friends change, for better and worse, and she sees them deal with those changes with as much grace as they can muster. And she has a lot of fun along the way.
Rachel Hartman has created the most welcoming fictional world imaginable. It’s a place where a hot-tempered barbarian (Amy’s mom) can live and work and love with a mild-mannered weaver (Amy’s dad), where a dragon can drop by to conduct scholarly research on the local legends, and where exiled nights come to dinner (and occasionally take a more roundabout approach to righting wrongs than they used to).
All of the characters make an impression, from Bran’s hardworking sister to Amy’s older friends from town. Each has good qualities and bad and distinct, individual qualities. The cast is the story, really, as Amy watches how everyone gets by in their own ways. She sees injustice and disappointment, but she also sees victory and celebration, and all of this arms her just a bit for her own challenges.
Amy’s a terrific kid, funny and inquisitive, with a real appetite for life. She’s a great guide through Hartman’s world, at least partly because she doesn’t fully understand it. She wants to, though, and she becomes more and more certain that she will someday.
And the world itself is just a marvel, filled with inventive and believable cultural detail. Hartman has created a wonderful place to visit, and I hope to have many more opportunities to check in on Amy’s progress.
Belondweg Blossoming collects issues 7 through 12 of the series, and you can order individual issues of the mini-comics from Hartman. Fore more information, e-mail her at amyunbounded at yahoo dot com.