I have been waiting years for Going North to appear. I’m sorry that the publishing deal for it didn’t work out, but I am glad that I’ll be able to get my hands on it eventually. I already own most of Dean’s books, including ex-library copies of the two now available as either e-books or paperbacks, but I’m wondering who, among my friends, might like copies of Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary and The Dubious Hills, because I would like to support the efforts of one of my favorite authors.
I recommend both books to people who like fantasy, especially fantasy with interesting, active teen-age girl heroes. Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary is about three sisters of those names, particularly the middle one and her group of friends. I like the first two-thirds or so of the book better than the climax and the ending, but to be fair, what’s going on in the last chunk of the book is sort of hard to write about: weird psychological effects of a time-loop-y sort of thing (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but also trying to be clear about what some people might not like about the book). It’s definitely character-driven and has a lot of atmospheric set-up, which I like, but would drive a reader like Sir John, who needs Plot with a capital P (if not all-caps) out of his mind. JGR grew out of a short story, IIRC, which might help to account for the somewhat odd shape it has. I love it for the treatment of the group of friends; PD is very good on girls’ interactions. The parents are interesting in their own right, which is fairly rare in YA fiction. They met at the same college that is the setting for PD’s Tam Lin, but I never could make either of them correspond to any TL characters, and I think it’s just the sort of recycling that Barbara Pym, for example, did with some of her characters.
The Dubious Hills has a more novelistic shape to it. It’s the same world as the Secret Country trilogy, and even contemporary to SC’s action, but there’s no character overlap, and it takes place in a different part of that world. The characters are engaging and there’s a real problem to tackle, but again, must-have-Plot readers might find it slow. It deals with a family of three children whose parents have disappeared, mysteriously. The kids are very self-sufficient (this is a world where small children have magic abilities, useful for household tasks, which disappear at a certain point in their development, so small people have a sense of responsibility that is not common in our own world), but they miss their parents and want to find them. It’s a lovely book, which includes shape-shifting wolves (shades of Marie de France and William of Palerne, not werewolves as in Anita Blake or Harry Dresden books).
Going North is supposed to bring together the oldest girls from both The Dubious Hills and The Secret Country, in Heathwill Library. Since I love both characters and libraries are my native habitat, I can’t wait to read it (but I’ve been saying that for a long time, so I guess I can, and do, and have, and will). I’m hoping that since Dean is now self-publishing, we’ll get the long version, rather than the one that had to be substantially cut to meet the publisher’s requirements. I mean, editors do have a function, I realize that, and the shorter version might make a better novel, but I want more of the world. Or maybe she could publish both versions! I’d buy them both.